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Israel Launches More Airstrikes Against Iranian Military Presence in Syria

Jan. 21, 2019 (EIRNS)—A wave of Israeli airstrikes hit Syria early this morning, between about 2-3 a.m. local time (00:00-01:00 UTC). Israeli statements indicated that the strikes were made in retaliation for a surface-to-surface missile strike aimed at the Golan Heights after (or during) a rare Israeli daylight strike on south Damascus carried out by its jets the day before.

Both the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have issued statements asserting that they will take any action they deem necessary against “entrenched Iranian” presence in Syria, and defended their strikes on that ground.

In China today, at the regular Foreign Ministry media briefing, spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that all sides should prevent increasing tension, Xinhua reported. “China has always stated that it is important to respect and defend Syria’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. At present, political settlement of the Syrian crisis is at a key stage,” she stated.

“We believe that all parties concerned should abstain from any steps which could lead to mounting tensions. The sides should also jointly maintain peace and stability in the region to encourage political settlement of the Syrian crisis,”

Hua said.

At an IDF press conference this morning, spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis told reporters, according to the Jerusalem Post, “The firing of the missile yesterday, a launch that could have killed civilians, was fired by Iranians out of Damascus within an area where we were promised that there would be no Iranians.”

Manelis claimed that the missile launch from Syria on Jan. 20—which was successfully intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome system, and the Iranian targets in Syria struck early on Jan. 21, showed just how deep Iran’s entrenchment in Syria is.

“This is the third time that Iran has tried to attack Israel in the past year,” he said. “Iran is exploiting Syria, and Syria is paying a heavy price for facilitating Iranian actions.”

However, the Times of Israel reported last night that the missile fired from Syria “was apparently a highly unusual retaliatory attack in response to an airstrike earlier in the day, which was widely attributed to Israel.”

As for the Syrian response, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier today that Syrian air defenses shot down 30 missiles

: “On Jan. 21, between 2:11 a.m. and 2:56 a.m., the Israeli Air Force carried out three air strikes on Syria’s territory from the western, southwestern and southern directions. While repelling the strike, the Syrian air defenses destroyed more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs,”

the National Defense Management Center said. Four Syrian military personnel were killed and six others wounded. The Damascus international airport’s infrastructure was damaged.

Times of Israel reported yesterday, before this morning’s wave of strikes, that the Jan. 20 strikes followed the arrival of a Syrian cargo flight at Damascus International Airport from Tehran, and speculates that it was carrying a load of weapons. It also reported that an Iranian Mahan Air flight on its way to Damascus turned back because of the Israeli strikes. It speculates that this flight may also have been carrying weapons, and states that Mahan Air is under U.S. sanctions because of suspicions that it is used to transport weapons to Syria.

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