Syria says Israel attacked areas around southern Damascus | Middle East News

Israel targets Iranian-backed strongholds in a second attack in less than a month on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

The Syrian army said Sunday evening that rockets fired by Israel had struck parts of southern Damascus in mounting attacks that regional intelligence sources said targeted assets linked to Iran.

A Syrian army statement said the attack came from the Golan Heights and shot down most of the missiles, in the second such attack in less than a month on the outskirts of the capital.

An IDF spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

Israel has hit a wider range of targets than usual since the start of the year, including a major attack on Iran-linked strongholds further east, near the Iraqi border.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Friday that Israel was taking action “almost every week” to prevent Iran from settling in Syria.

Regional intelligence sources have said that Iran’s Quds Force and the militias it supports, whose presence has expanded into Syria in recent years, have a strong presence in the Sayeda Zainab neighborhood, south of Damascus, where the militias have many underground bases.

Israel has regularly attacked what it says are Iran-related targets in Syria in recent years, and has stepped up such raids this year in what Western intelligence sources have described as a shadow war to reduce Iran’s influence.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said in December that Israel struck more than 500 targets in 2020.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has never publicly acknowledged that Iranian forces are operating on its behalf in the civil war in Syria, only that Tehran has sent military advisers.

The entry of thousands of Shiite militias from Afghanistan to Lebanon to fight alongside al-Assad helped the authoritarian leader survive a widespread armed rebellion born out of a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Western intelligence sources say this year’s Israeli attacks undermined Iran’s significant military power in Syria without triggering a significant increase in hostilities.

Iran has built underground tunnels and spread decoys to help mitigate the effects of repeated Israeli attacks on its elaborate military infrastructure in the country, Syrian military deserters have said.

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