Russia: Israeli Attack on Damascus Targets Endangered Passenger Plane

YERUSHALAYIM -
Missile fire is seen over Damascus, Syria Jan. 21, 2019. (SANA/Handout)

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday criticized Israel for an attack on Iranian military installations in the Damascus area Wednesday night, saying that a Russian civilian aircraft was endangered by the attack. Russian state news agency RIA said that the plane, with 172 passengers, was endangered after a Syrian defense missile nearly hit it in response to the Israeli attack. The plane was forced to make a landing at a military base instead of Damascus Airport, as scheduled. Israel has not commented on the attack, nor has it admitted involvement.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the attack rose to 23, according to reports by a Syrian human rights group. The 23 were Iranian operatives who were killed when missiles hit targets in the Damascus area belonging to Iranian militias.

Syrian human rights groups said that Syrian officials were attributing the attack to Israel. The groups said that the attack was “substantial,” and that many of the missiles fired hit their targets. Official Syrian sources said that most of the incoming missiles were destroyed by defensive systems before they could hit their targets.

According to Syria’s government-controlled SANA news agency, the missiles were fired from the Israeli side of the Golan Heights border fence and traveled over Lebanese territory to reach their targets. The targets, according to Syrian human rights groups, were various installations in the Damascus area run by the Iranians. All the operatives the groups said had been killed in the attack were Iranians. Israel had no comment on the story.

Three weeks ago, three people were killed in an attack next to the airport in the central Syrian town of Homs, the Syrian human rights group said. According to the report, the target of the attack was an Iranian weapons storage facility. It is not clear if the three people killed were Iranian as well.

A Syrian military official blamed Israel for that attack, claiming that Israeli fighter planes entered Syrian airspace and carried out the attack. Previous reports in Syrian media said that the site had been attacked by unidentified drones, and there were no reports of casualties.