BEIRUT (AP) — Israel fired missiles onto a Syrian military air base in the country’s center late Sunday, killing a soldier and wounding two others hours after other Israeli attacks in southern Syria killed three soldiers and wounded seven, Syria’s state-run media said.
The new wave of Israeli missiles struck the T4 air base in the central province of Homs before midnight Sunday, according to state-run Syrian TV. There was no immediate comment from Israel about striking the air base, which opposition activists said includes positions also manned by Iranian troops and Iran-backed militiamen.
Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified military official as saying that one soldier was killed and two were wounded in the air base attack and that an arms depot was hit as well. Israel has attacked the T4 base in the past.
Earlier Sunday, Israel’s military confirmed it targeted several military positions in southern Syria, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defense unit. It said it was responding to two rockets launched from Syria late Saturday, which caused no casualties. The army said one rocket fell within Israeli-controlled territory but didn’t explode.
The Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting an unidentified military official, said those attacks struck military positions in the southern region of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They also caused material damage, the report said.
This is the latest such exchange amid heightened tension in the region over Iran’s role in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.
Soon after the Sunday morning attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the strikes. “We will not tolerate firing into our territory and will respond fiercely against any aggression against us,” he said in a statement.
It was a rare public acknowledgement of Israeli strikes in Syria soon after they happened but is the second in a little over a week, both sparked by claims that fire was directed at Israel from inside Syria. On May 26, Israel said its aircraft had hit a Syrian military post in response to anti-aircraft fire against one of its combat planes. One Syrian soldier was killed, according to state-run media.
The Israeli military said that during the Sunday morning strikes, an Israeli aerial defense system was activated due to Syrian anti-aircraft shooting. Israeli media said that sirens warning of incoming rockets were not activated.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Israeli aircraft struck positions and an arms depot belonging to Iranian troops and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters. It said the attacks killed at least 10, including three Syrian troops and seven believed to be foreign fighters. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory, said “until this moment it is not clear if they were Iranians or Hezbollah members.”
The attacks came hours after the Israeli military said two projectiles were fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in a move that has not been recognized by most of the international community. The U.S. recently said it recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.
Israel has acknowledged carrying out dozens of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets and Tehran’s allies over recent months.
For years, Israel has remained largely silent about its attacks against Iran and its Shiite proxies operating in neighboring Syria. But in recent months, military and political leaders have become increasingly outspoken about these activities. Israel says it will not allow Iran, which has sent forces to help President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.