Syrian air defense intercepts Israeli attack over Aleppo


CAIRO / AMMAN, July 19 (Reuters) – Syria’s air defense intercepted an Israeli attack on the Al-Safirah area in southern Aleppo on Monday, Syrian state media reported, a place where Israel has repeatedly encountered a growing Iranian presence.

A Syrian military spokesman told state media that the damage will be assessed after the air defense fired most of the missiles that were aimed at a number of unspecified locations.

Syrian opposition forces said the air strikes targeted Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases and an arms plant in continuation of Israeli attacks on Iranian military research and development activities last year.

The Syrian government has never admitted that the attacks are targeting Iranian assets, which it claims are limited to a few advisors.

However, Syrian military sources say Iran has a strong presence in the province of northern Syria, including elite Revolutionary Guard officers at the Kuweires military airfield 30 kilometers east of the city.

An Israeli army spokesman said the Israeli military did not comment on foreign reports. Israeli officials said previous missile strikes had slowed Iran’s anchoring in Syria.

Explosions could be heard in Aleppo, which before the war was the most populous urban center in Syria and a commercial and industrial powerhouse.

Authorities said work was underway to repair the main power cable to the city following a direct blackout.

The air strikes are the first since a new Israeli government under Naftali Bennett came to power last month.

Bennett has vowed to maintain his predecessor’s policy of curbing Iran’s military expansion into Syria, a development that Israel’s defense establishment said has upset the region’s strategic balance.

Western intelligence sources say Israeli attacks on Syria are part of a United States-sanctioned shadow war and part of a policy to undermine Iran’s military might without causing a major increase in hostilities.

In response to missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, Washington recently launched attacks against Iran-backed militia facilities in eastern Syria.

The Pentagon said earlier this month it was deeply concerned about a series of retaliatory attacks on US personnel in the northeast of the country that came under fire from Iranian-backed militias in the border area with Iraq.

Thousands of Iran-backed militias were present across Syria last year after helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regain territories once lost to insurgents.

Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Suleiman al-Khalidi, Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Howard Goller and Jane Wardell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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