Three Syrian soldiers killed in Israeli missile attacks: Report

At least three Syrian soldiers have been killed and three others wounded in “multiple” Israeli missile attacks on Syria, according to state media.

The SANA news agency said on Sunday that the missile attacks took place at 8:50pm (17:50 GMT) and targeted “some points” in the countryside near the capital, Damascus, and the coastal province of Tartous.

Syrian air defence forces confronted the “aggressions” and downed some of the missiles, SANA said, citing an unnamed military source.

“The aggression led to the death of three soldiers, the wounding of three others,” it reported.

The attacks on Damascus were carried out from a direction southeast of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, while the attacks on Tartous came from the Mediterranean sea.

In addition to the deaths, the attacks caused some “material damage,” the military source told SANA.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air raids inside the country, targeting government positions as well as allied Iran-backed forces and Hezbollah fighters. Israel rarely comments on individual raids in Syria, but the Israeli military has defended them as necessary to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also reported on Sunday’s attacks, saying the raids targeted an air defence base in Tartous province, where Iranian-backed groups are active.

The site in Tartous is located 8km (5 miles) from a Russian base, said the monitor, which has a vast network of sources in Syria.

It said ambulances had rushed to the scene of the raids in Tartous.

It added that two missiles also struck a Syrian government military site in the Al-Qutayfah area of the Damascus countryside.

Other recent reported Israeli attacks in Syria include a raid near Damascus that killed three Syrian soldiers last month. The Syrian Observatory said that attack targeted a military facility and an “Iranian weapons depot”.

Civilians have also been wounded in the Israeli raids.

Syria’s defence ministry said in early July that an Israeli raid carried out from the Mediterranean Sea near the town of Al-Hamadiyah, south of Tartous town, had wounded two civilians.

State media also reported that Israeli shelling on Friday had wounded two civilians in southern Syria near the occupied Golan Heights.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said Israel has also recently struck a port in the coastal city of Latakia as well as the airport in Damascus, deeming the runway there unusable for weeks.

“For Israel, the biggest goal is to prevent Iran from creating a base on its border with Syria, the way that Iran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah has,” she said. “Israel also wants to stop any transfers of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hezbollah.”

She added, “such attacks are often confined, but the risk of further escalation is there.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was able to turn the tide of his country’s civil war, with crucial help from Iran’s proxy groups and with Russia’s military intervention in 2015.

The conflict started with the brutal repression of peaceful protests for democracy and has killed nearly half a million people since 2011.

Half of the country’s prewar population have also been forced from their homes.