DAMASCUS－Israeli warplanes flying over Lebanon fired missiles toward areas near Damascus on Monday, the Syrian military said, claiming the country’s air defenses shot most of them down. The strike killed three civilians.
The military statement, carried by state media, said the attack took place around dawn. It gave no further details about the attack or what it targeted. Syrian state TV said the attacks occurred near Damascus.
Israel did not comment on the Syrian report. Israel has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes over the years, most aimed at alleged weapons shipments believed to be bound for Hezbollah. In recent months, Israeli officials have expressed concern that Hezbollah is trying to establish production facilities to make precision-guided missiles.
Lebanese Hezbollah forces in Syria are fighting alongside Syrian government forces. Israel has also in the past used Lebanon’s airspace to launch attacks on Syria.
Meanwhile, tension flared between Turkish forces and an al-Qaida-linked militant group on Sunday as a result of the militants’ rejection of a Turkey-Russia deal aimed at clearing the M4 road in Idlib Province in northern Syria, a war monitor group reported.
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, the umbrella group of the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front, had rejected a call to move back from the M4 road, which connects the northwestern province of Latakia with Aleppo Province in northern Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Under a recent deal between Russia and Turkey, the Turkey-backed rebel groups are required to remove their forces and leave the M4 road clear.
With the HTS refusing to cooperate, the group’s sympathizers set up tents on the road to prevent the Turkish forces from opening the road. It is envisaged that the Syrian government would ultimately take over control of the vital road.
The group said the Turkish forces managed to remove most of the tents but HTS militants and Turkish forces exchanged fire on Sunday, which led to the wounding of Turkish soldiers and the killing of four HTS militants.
On Sunday evening, Turkish helicopters entered Syria’s Idlib Province to take the wounded soldiers back to Turkey. The UK-based rights group said tension is escalating between the Turkish forces and the HTS near the town of Nayrab in the eastern countryside of Idlib.
The M4 road links Latakia with Aleppo through Idlib, where the rebels are located.
According to the cease-fire arrangement signed between Russia and Turkey in March, the M4 road, which runs across opposition-held Idlib from east to west, was slated to be an area that is patrolled jointly by Turkish and Russian troops.
However, protesters blocked the M4 in defiance of the Russia-Turkey deal.
Still, Turkey seemed to be determined to open the road ahead of a meeting that is planned soon between the leaders of Turkey, Russia, and Iran, with the cease-fire deal and the broader situation in Idlib to be discussed.
The Syrian army has made advances in reclaiming the M5 road, known locally as the “international road”, which links the capital Damascus with Aleppo.
Idlib, which emerged as the rebel stronghold in Syria, is home to three million people.