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Israel confirms air strikes against Iranian forces in Syria

A 2-ship of Israeli Air Force F-16s from Ramon Air Base, Israel head out to the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 17, 2009 during Red Flag 09-4. . (U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Israeli military confirmed early on January 21 that it attacked Iranian military targets in Syria, hours after Israeli forces carried out rare daylight air strikes near Damascus International Airport.

The statement was issued shortly after Israeli missile defenses intercepted an incoming missile over the Golan Heights in the wake of the Israeli air strikes.

“We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” the Israeli military statement said. “We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory.”

The statement did not provide further details about the air strikes.

But a Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported missile strikes near the Damascus airport and in areas around the capital — saying the missiles hit apparent weapons depots of Iranian forces and Lebanon’s Shi’ite militant group Hizballah.

Israel has largely refrained from publicly confirming its military operations in neighboring Syria in order to avoid larger involvement in the eight-year war.

The Syrian military said Israel carried out intensive air strikes with successive waves of guided missiles shortly after 1 a.m. on January 20.

It said Syrian air defenses destroyed most of the missiles before they reached their targets, and Syrian state media said the air defenses repelled an Israeli air strike near the international airport south of Damascus.

State TV said Israel fired six missiles in an area near Damascus International Airport, of which five were shot down and one diverted to nearby empty farmland.

According to a statement from the Russian military, Syrian air defenses destroyed seven projectiles after four Israeli F-16 military planes “fired rockets into Syrian territory.”

Russia and Iran have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crucial military and diplomatic support throughout the war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Israel has pledged to stop Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, carrying out hundreds of air strikes there against Iranian targets and those of Lebanon’s Hizballah.