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Israel targets senior Syrian and Iranian military officers meeting in Hama

April 1, 2020 at 2:55 pm

A picture taken early on 21 January, 2019 shows Syrian air defence batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus [STR/AFP/Getty Images]

Israeli missiles fired at the Shayrat Airbase in the Homs governorate in Syria late yesterday were targeting a meeting of senior Syrian and Iranian officers, according to a report by Shorouk News.

Unconfirmed reports said the meeting included the commander of the Iranian Quds Force Esmail Ghaani, but the Iranian commander was also reported to have visited Baghdad yesterday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that the Shayrat Airbase, where Iranian forces are present, was the target.

The UK-based organisation added that Israeli warplanes fired eight missiles at the airbase and that explosions, believed to have been caused by anti-aircraft defences, were heard.

According to Syrian state media, the Israeli missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defences.

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The official news agency SANA reported that “hostile targets” were intercepted over the city of Homs, and that “the air defences shot down a number of missiles before they reached their targets.”

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, though details of substantial material damage have emerged today.

The Israeli missiles are thought to have been fired from Lebanese airspace, after Beirut-based media outlets reported sightings of Israeli jets in multiple regions of the country, including near the capital yesterday evening.

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Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet Al-Mayadeen reported that Hamas responded to the strikes saying, “the Israeli bombing of Syria is an aggression against all parts of the nation and the destruction of its capabilities.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad called the air strikes an “attack on all Arabs and Muslims,” adding that “the attack calls for a responsible and serious response to the continuation of this terrorism and the repeated targeting of Syrian lands.”

This is the second time this month Israeli forces have targeted the Shayrat Airbase, which is thought to be used by Iranian forces to bring weapons into Syria.

According to Syrian opposition sources, Israeli air strikes targeted four Iranian-linked sites in central and southern Syria, including Shayrat Airbase, from Lebanese airspace and the Golan Heights, on 5 March.

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The self-declared Jewish state has previously claimed that the airbase is being used by Iranian forces to entrench the Islamic Republic’s military in Syria, something which Israeli forces have vowed to prevent.

Though officials often deny involvement in specific strikes, they have acknowledged conducting air strikes against what they term “legitimate Iranian targets” since the start of the Syrian war in 2011 and vowed to continue targeted campaigns in the war-torn country.