On Wednesday evening, Syrian and Lebanese media reported new Israeli airstrikes near Damascus International Airport. A member of the Syrian opposition said that Israeli warplanes entered Syrian air space via the Qalamoun Mountains in the Lebanese border area. The Israeli jets flew above the airport in Damascus and carried out strikes on military outposts. The opposition activist added that the outposts belonged to Hezbollah.
A regime-affiliated news site reported heavy damage to the outposts that all went up in flames. Eyewitnesses described huge explosions and blasts that could be heard miles away.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) was less convinced that it was Israeli airplanes that carried out the strikes in the vicinity of Damascus Airport. The London-based group that has a vast network of citizen reporters in Syria said there was conflicting information whether the reported explosions were caused by airstrikes carried out by unidentified (Israeli) warplanes or by regime forces that targeted Islamist factions in the area.
SOHR pointed out that the strikes near the airport in Damascus coincided with a heavy barrage of aerial attacks with barrel bombs by Bashar al-Assad’s air force on the nearby city of Darayya, a suburb of Damascus where Islamic State has a foothold. SOHR reported at least 20 strikes with barrel bombs on Darayyah on Wednesday morning.
Israeli observers, however, maintain that the IAF was responsible for the attacks. They point to the fact that the strikes targeted Hezbollah weapons caches near the International Airport in Damascus, which Iran uses for weapon deliveries to Hezbollah. The same area has been targeted by Israeli airplanes in the past.
Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria since the beginning of the civil war. Most of the attacks were directed at weapon convoys bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. A week ago, the Israeli air force struck two Hezbollah depots in the Qalamoun Mountains in western Syria within twenty-four hours. The stikes destroyed Scud missiles and surface to surface missiles.
The attacks on Wednesday were directed at Iranian arms shipments for Hezbollah, sources in the Syrian opposition reported.
Israeli officials now estimate that Hezbollah is in possession of roughly 150,000 rockets that are aimed at Israel. Some of them are Iranian guided missiles that can reach Eilat, Israel’s most southern city at the Red Sea.
The new estimate of Hezbollah’s missile arsenal represents a fifty percent increase in the organization’s stockpile since May of this year, when the number was estimated at roughly 100,000. Hezbollah has also acquired a fleet of combat drones and is making efforts to obtain advanced missiles such as “SA-17 and SA-22 ground-to-air missiles as well as P-800 Oniks air-to-sea missiles.”
The new data show that Hezbollah is planning for a new confrontation with Israel despite its heavy involvement in the Syrian civil war.
This week, news broke that Hezbollah, Iran, and the Syrian army are preparing for a major offensive that aims to drive Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra out of the border area on the Syrian Golan Heights opposite…