Mezzah: Israeli rockets hit major air base in Damascus, Syria
The Syrian army has accused Israel of firing rockets that hit a major military airport in a “flagrant” attack outside Damascus, warning Tel Aviv of severe repercussions.
The explosions were heard in the capital, and a large plume of smoke could be seen rising from the area, while video footage circulated online showing flames leaping from parts of the Mezzah air base compound.
Syrian state television quoted the army as saying several rockets were fired from an area near Lake Tiberias in northern Israel just after midnight, before landing in the compound of the air base used by President Bashar al-Assad's elite Republican Guards.
“Syrian army command and armed forces warn Israel of the repercussions of the flagrant attack and stresses its continued fight against [this] terrorism and amputate the arms of the perpetrators,” the army command said in a statement.
President Assad has repeatedly vowed to take the country back from "terrorists"— a term used to describe all opposition groups.
It was the third such Israeli strike into Syria recently, the Syrian government claimed.
It remains unclear whether there are any casualties of the alleged attacks, which caused fierce fires.
Earlier, state television said several major explosions hit Mezzah military airport's compound and ambulances were rushed to the area.
The airport had been a base used to fire rockets at former rebel-held areas in the suburbs of Damascus.
Tel Aviv has previously neither confirmed nor denied involvement in striking targets inside Syria and it did not immediately give an indication of whether it was behind the most recent rocket attack.
But it is widely believed that Israel has targeted the positions and weapons shipments of Lebanon's Hezbollah group since civil war broke out in the country in 2011.
The Iran-backed group, which fought a short war with Israel in 2006, has sent thousands of fighter to Syria in support of President Assad's forces.
Last November, the Syrian army said Israeli jets fired two missiles on an area west of the capital, close to the Damascus Beirut-highway, in an attack mounted from Lebanese air space.
Diplomatic sources say Israel has in the past few years targeted advanced weapons systems, including Russian made anti-aircraft and Iranian made missiles and bombed the elite Fourth Armoured Division base on Qasioun mountain in the capital.
An air strike in Syria in December 2015 killed a prominent Hezbollah leader, Samir Qantar.
Israel welcomed Qantar's death, saying he was preparing attacks from Syrian soil, but stopped short of confirming responsibility for eliminating him.
Earlier that year, an Israeli air strike in Syria killed six members of Hezbollah, including a commander and the son of the its late military chief Imad Moughniyah near the Golan Heights.
Flare-up's between Israel and Syria are frequent in the disputed region, which spans the border between the countries.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967, before Syrian forces led an unsuccessful counter-offensive in 1973, and Israel effectively annexed the vast majority of the occupied territory in 1981.
Although Israel has carried out reprisals on Syrian positions when errant fire has strayed into its territory, it has remained largely on the sidelines of the conflict taking place the other side of the border.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently reiterated his government's position to not get involved in the Syrian war.
Independent News Service