Syria says 'no human casualties' in Israeli strikes

Syria says 'no human casualties' in Israeli strikes
A 2013 photo shows an Israeli air force jet demonstrating its flight maneuvering abilities during an air show in southern Israel. (Abir Sultan / European Pressphoto Agency)

The Syrian government said Sunday that Israeli warplanes had launched a “flagrant attack” on targets outside Damascus, marking the latest reported Israeli aerial assault during the Syrian conflict.

State media reported that Israel bombarded areas near the nation’s international airport, southeast of the capital, and in the town of Dimas, west of the capital and close to the Lebanese border.

The attacks resulted in “material losses to some structures” but “no human casualties,” reported the official Syrian Arab News Agency. The exact nature of the reported targets was not specified.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Peter Lerner, declined to comment on the report. The Israeli army’s news desk issued its common response in such cases: “We do not comment on foreign reports.”

Israeli warplanes have reportedly targeted Syrian government weapons stocks, a research facility, weapons convoys and other targets during Syria's more than three-year civil war.

Israeli authorities have generally declined to comment on the reported strikes, though officials did acknowledge a retaliatory attack on Syria in June after cross-border shelling from Syrian territory that they said left a teenager dead in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian government is not publicly known to have responded militarily to any of the previous attacks from neighboring Israel. Damascus does not appear eager get into a direct conflict with Israel when the government is in a war for survival.

Some analysts have speculated that Israeli strategists may be seizing on Syria’s weakened state — and the uncertainty of its future leadership — to take out some of the nation's most potent weapons.

U.S. officials have been quoted anonymously as saying some of the earlier strikes were moves by Israel to prevent the transfer of missiles and other sophisticated military equipment to the Hezbollah movement in neighboring Lebanon. Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006 and remain fierce adversaries.

Hezbollah is a close ally of Iran and of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Islamist and other rebels, some backed by the United States and its allies, have been fighting since 2011 to overthrow Assad’s government.

Israeli officials have publicly said that they would not get directly involved in Syria’s war, but also that Israel had a number of “red lines” regarding its security, including the transfer of advanced, strategic weapons systems to Hezbollah or other armed groups threatening Israel.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry charged that Sunday’s attack confirmed Israel’s “explicit involvement in supporting the armed terrorist groups in Syria,” using the official term for antigovernment rebels.

Damascus also cited United Nations reports documenting Israeli contact with Syrian rebels along the U.N.-patrolled cease-fire line in the Golan Heights as indicative of “standing cooperation” between the Israel Defense Forces and “terrorists.”

Hundreds of wounded Syrians, including civilians and rebels, have received medical treatment inside Israel. Israeli officials call the medical aid a humanitarian gesture.

Special correspondent Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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