July 23, 2019 / 10:46 PM / 2 months ago

Syrian state TV reports Israeli attack in southern Syria

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian state television said on Wednesday that Israel struck a strategic area in southern Syria overlooking the Golan Heights where Western intelligence sources previously said Iranian-backed militias are known to be based.

The newsflash on state-owned Ikhbariyah did not give details, but said the strike was directed on Tel Haraa, which had long been an outpost for Russian forces but was later taken by Iranian-backed militias, according to Western intelligence sources.

State news agency SANA later said damages were only material and referred to the last Israeli attacks at the end of last month when it said its air defences repelled a major attack on some of its outposts on the outskirts of the capital and Homs province.

Diplomatic sources familiar with Syria said at the time these overnight attacks outside Damascus on Iranian-backed forces, including bases of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group, were among the largest strikes attributed to Israel in recent years.

They came only days after the national security advisers of Israel, the United States and Russia met in Israel, with Washington and Jerusalem demanding that Moscow ensure the withdrawal of Iran’s forces from the region, according to intelligence sources.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed after the trilateral meeting to continue to act against Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Tel Haraa is a strategically located area in southern Deraa province overlooking the Israeli-held Golan Heights. It was for many years a major Russian military radar outpost until rebels took it over in 2014 before it was again recaptured by the Syrian army last year.

The zone has been a target of Israeli raids against Tehran-backed militias which have become entrenched in southern Syria and the Golan Heights near the border with Israel.

Last month the Syrian army said it had shot down a number of Israeli missiles targeting the location.

In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria that it says have targeted its regional archrival, Iran, as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which it calls the biggest threat to its borders.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by G Crosse and Leslie Adler

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