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Israeli jets strike Hezbollah targets near Damascus airport: reports

Flames and smoke rise from the Mazzeh airbase on the outskirts of Damascus following what the Syrian army said were Israeli missile strikes (FILE)
Israel does not usually confirm or deny individual raids in war-torn Syria

Syrian news media outlets early on Friday claimed Israeli aircraft carried out strikes on targets near the Damascus International Airport, located in an area known as a stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah group.

Three separate strikes were said to target Hezbollah weapons caches near the airport. No casualties were reported.

According to some reports, an Israeli drone was downed by the Syrian Armed Forces in the course of the operation.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said "Israeli warplanes targeted with rocket fire a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah near the airport."

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson declined to comment on the reports.

Israel does not usually confirm or deny reports of individual raids in war-torn Syria, but in April 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons destined for Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel and is now fighting alongside the Damascus regime.

Since then the leader has alluded to "dozens" of attack carried out by Israeli aircraft against Hezbollah targets in Syria.

Israel pays close attention to developments in the Syrian conflict for fear that it could be exploited by its arch-rival Iran to install allies close to the armistice line on the Golan and Israel’s borders.

Earlier this week, Israel fired a Patriot missile to intercept an Iranian-made drone that was launched by Hezbollah from Damascus, most likely on a reconnaissance mission.

According to Lebanese media reports, Israel retaliated hours after the incident with airstrikes on targets near where the Lebanese and Syrian borders meet Israel.

Israel is concerned that Iran will use the power vacuum in war-torn Syria and strong Russian influence to establish military bases in Syria with the aim of opening up a second front against Israel in the event of a war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.



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