WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM: A senior US general said on Thursday that he believed a Syrian missile exploding in Israel was not intentional, but rather showed a lack of Syrian air defense capability.
“I think it reflects actually incompetence in Syrian air defense ... I do not believe it was an intentional attack,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing
Earlier in the day, a Syrian anti-aircraft missile landed in southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top secret nuclear reactor. In response, it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.
Israeli media later described the Syrian missile as an “errant” projectile, not a deliberate attack deep inside Israel.
In recent years, Israel has repeatedly launched air strikes at Syria, including at military targets linked to foes Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Such strikes routinely draw Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Thursday’s exchange was unusual because the Syrian projectile landed deep inside Israel.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said the exchange began with an Israeli air strike on Dumeir, a suburb of the capital of Damascus. Dumeir is believed to house Syrian army installations and batteries as well as bases and weapons depots belonging to Iran-backed militias. SANA said four soldiers were wounded.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group based in Britain that tracks Syria’s civil war, said the Israeli strikes hit an air defense base belonging to the Syrian military and destroyed air defense batteries in the area. It said the Syrian military fired surface-to-air missiles in response.
The Israeli military described the projectile that landed near the nuclear site as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defense against warplanes or other missiles.
Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, is some 300 km south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.