Damascus says Israeli planes target military positions in Syria

BEIRUT/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli planes targeted military positions in Syria on Tuesday, but Syrian air defenses confronted and downed some of the rockets, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Citing a military source, SANA said that Israeli aircraft had targeted “our military positions in the provinces of Tartous and Hama”.

“The enemy missiles were dealt with and some of them were shot down,” SANA said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment.

Israel has carried out scores of military strikes in Syria during the civil war there, against suspected arms transfers and deployments by Iranian forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies which are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Tuesday a senior Israeli official said Israel has carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years. Israeli officials have rarely detailed specific operations.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said several explosions had been heard in the areas around Masyaf and Wadi al-Uyoun near Hama city and around the coastal city of Tartous, targeting areas with Iranian military facilities.

The Observatory’s head Rami Abdulrahman said the attack had also targeted around the coastal city of Baniyas for the first time, with two rockets hitting around one kilometer from an oil refinery.

Syrian state television said air defenses downed five rockets.

According to Syrian state television, the head of a hospital in Masyaf said one person had died and four had been wounded. The head of a hospital in Baniyas said eight had been injured as a result of the strikes.

SANA said the planes had come at a low altitude from west of neighboring Lebanon’s coastal capital Beirut.

Reuters journalists in Beirut heard unusually loud aircraft sounds shortly before the strikes were reported in Syrian media.

Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen news said Israeli fighter planes released countermeasures against anti-aircraft fire “and withdrew toward the sea at the same time as the sounds of explosions were heard in Hama countryside.”

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Dahlia Nehme in Beirut and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Peter Graff