Israelis blamed for explosions at military facility near capital
BEIRUT – Huge explosions were reported in Damascus early today, just two days after a reported Israeli airstrike in Syria targeting surface-to-air missiles possibly destined for neighboring Lebanon and the militant group Hezbollah.
Syrian state media blamed Israel for today’s predawn onslaught, saying that Israeli jet fighters had launched rockets on the capital.
The site targeted was a military research facility in Jamraya, just outside Damascus, state media reported. That was the same complex targeted Jan. 30, when Israel launched its first known airstrike into Syria since the onset of that nation’s civil war.
Unverified video released early today showed balls of fire soaring into the night sky. Witness accounts from Damascus indicated there was a thunderous explosion about 2 a.m., heard throughout the city, that was followed by smaller explosions.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the reported blasts, and no immediate comment from Israel or the United States.
Opposition social media networks reported that several sites were targeted in the Damascus area, including the Jamraya research complex, several bases of the elite Republican Guard and rocket emplacements on heavily fortified Mount Qasioun. The mountain overlooks the capital and is studded with artillery and rocket batteries that regularly fire on rebels.
The reported aerial attack Friday by Israel is believed to have targeted SA-17 antiaircraft missiles that may have been en route to the armories of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Syria’s close ally, a senior U.S. official said. Syrian authorities may be moving the missiles to prevent them from falling into the hands of rebels or to safeguard them from possible airstrikes, the official said.
The Friday strike was launched from outside Syria airspace, said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. Some reports indicated that the Israeli warplanes may have fired from Lebanese airspace.
Lebanon and Syria share a long border and Damascus is only an hour’s drive from the border.
In Israel, government and military officials declined to comment publicly on reports of attacks on Syria.
Reuters news service, however, quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that the strike Friday was aimed at destroying a shipment of conventional ground-to-ground missiles bound for Lebanon.
If confirmed, the weekend air assaults would bring the number of attacks launched by Israel against targets in Syria this year to three.
In January, Israel bombed a target outside Damascus that Western sources identified as a truck convoy believed to be carrying antiaircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah.
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