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Syrian Army: Israeli Air Raid on Military Position Kills 2

Thursday, 07 September 2017 05:36 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — Israeli warplanes struck a military position in western Syria early Thursday, killing two soldiers and causing material damage, the Syrian army said, in what appeared to be the furthest airstrike north by the Jewish state since Russia joined Syria's war two years ago.

The army said the air raid targeted a facility near the western town of Masyaf, close to the Mediterranean coast, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad.

The army said the Israeli warplanes fired several missiles while in Lebanese air space, and warned of the "dangerous repercussions of such hostile acts on the security and stability of the region."

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

While largely staying out of the Syrian civil war, Israel has carried out a number of airstrikes against suspected arms shipments believed to be headed to Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, which is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces. Israel has also struck several Syrian military facilities since the conflict began, mostly near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said two facilities were hit, a scientific research center and a nearby military base where short-range surface-to-surface missiles are stored. He said the attack killed two people and wounded five.

"Many explosions were heard in the area after the air raid," said Abdurrahman, whose group relies on a network of activists across the country. He said some of the blasts may have been secondary explosions from a missile storage facility being hit.

He said Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iranian military officials often visit the site. He said those killed and wounded were Syrians, adding that it was not immediately clear if there were casualties among Iranian and Hezbollah operatives.

He added that the airstrike is the furthest north since Russia joined the war in September 2015 with a major air campaign to aid Assad's forces.

In October 2016, Russia deployed a battery of S-300 air defense missile systems to protect a Russian navy facility in the Syrian port of Tartus and Russian navy ships in the area. Moscow also has long-range S-400 missile defense systems and an array of other surface-to-air missiles at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia.

The air raid came a day after a U.N. probe found the Syrian government responsible for a chemical attack in April in northern Syria that killed more than 80 people. It was not immediately clear if the facility struck Thursday was used for the production or storage of chemical weapons. Syria denies having or using chemical weapons.

Days after the April 4 chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 271 employees of Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center. Washington said the agency is responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them. It was not immediately clear if that center was the target of Thursday's air raid.

Yaakov Amidror, Israel's former national security adviser and a former general, said the strike targeted a weapons development and manufacturing site that was producing arms for Hezbollah.

Former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin wrote on Twitter that the facility reportedly struck by Israel produces precision missiles, chemical weapons and barrel bombs. Such a strike is "exceptional," he said, and shows that "Israel won't allow the stockpiling and production of strategic arms."

Israeli officials rarely comment on such operations.

In 2013, Syria said Israeli warplanes carried out an air raid on a scientific research center in the Damascus suburb of Jamraya.

Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Israeli warplanes struck a military position in western Syria early Thursday, killing two soldiers and causing material damage, the Syrian army said, in what appeared to be the furthest airstrike north by the Jewish state since Russia joined Syria's war two years ago.The...
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2017-36-07
Thursday, 07 September 2017 05:36 AM
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