Report: Suspected Israeli strike targets Hezbollah in Syria
Syrian war-monitoring group says Israel suspected of launching strikes on military base overnight in central Syria that houses Hezbollah and other hostile forces to Israel; Syria also blames Israel for one of two strikes carried out Thursday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday that it's not clear if there are any casualties in the strikes on the Dabaa air base in central Homs province. The base is north of the town of al-Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013 from rebels, a turning point in the group's role in the Syrian war.
Syria's state media reported late Thursday that a military base in central Syria came under attack from "enemy" fire. It said Syrian air defenses responded.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah pointed the finger at Israel for the attack, saying, "every day the Israeli enemy enters our airspace. Yesterday, from the skies of Lebanon, it attacked in Syria."
Speaking in a televised address on a day commemorating 18 years since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanese territory, Nasrallah reassured such aggression is not tolerated, and should Hezbollah go to war with the IDF, it will surely win.
"The weapons Hezbollah had before the Israeli withdrawal were few and incomparable with the amount it currently has," Nasrallah said. "When I get asked about a war with Israel, I say that, if it happens—I’m certain of our victory."
Hezbollah and Iran's role in Syria has alarmed Israel and the United States, which have threatened action.
The US even resorted recently to sanctioning them to curb ther 'malign activity' in the region.
Nasrallah scoffed at the sanctions targeting Hezbollah's leadership, saying "we have no money to put in banks, nor do we have any bank accounts or transactions." But he added that the sanctions were harmful to individuals the state should defend, rather than "act more American than the Americans."
Syrian state media and a military media unit run by Hezbollah said early on Thursday that the US-led coalition targeted Syrian army positions in Syria's desert, but US military officials denied any knowledge of the strikes.
"Some of our military sites between Albu Kamal and Hamimia were exposed at dawn today to aggression launched by US coalition jets," state news agency SANA reported, citing a military source.
A Syrian news agency also reported overnight Thursday that Israeli jets were responsible for carrying out a separate strike against the Dabaa military airfield in Homs.
An explosion was heard Thursday evening in the airfield near the Syrian-Lebanese border, Syrian state news agency SANA reported. The source of the blast was initially unclear.
Opposition news sites also reported that 25 Iranian and Hezbollah fighters had been killed in the strike, but the figure has not yet been verified
Syrian state media added the military airport had come under a missile attack, which was repelled by its air defense systems.
A news site affiliated with the Syrian opposition reported in the past that the Assad regime had already begun transforming the Dabaa air base, which is situated 30 kilometers west of Homs, for “civil” purposes in cooperation with the Iranians.
The goal of the Syrian regime, according to the report, was to build an alternative international airport to that currently being used in Damascus, which has also been subject to constant attacks by rebels in the country, which has been beset by a bloody civil war.
The pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al Akhbar reported on Friday morning that the attack on the military airbase was “the largest by the Israeli Air Force since the night of the missiles," a term used in reference to the night in which Iran launched 32 rockets at Israeli targets earlier this month.
Israel’s response was one of the heaviest barrages in Syria since the conflict there began in 2011.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.