Explosions Rock Damascus, Israel Blamed for Second Airstrike
A series of explosions were heard in Damascus overnight Saturday, as the official Syrian news agency SANA claimed that Israel carried out a rocket attack on the Jamraya scientific research center in Damascus.
The agency did not say whether there were any wounded or dead.
Syrian television said "the Israeli attack aims at loosening the noose around the terrorists in the eastern Ghouta" region, near Damascus. “Terrorists” is the word used by the Syrian media to describe the rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.
If confirmed, the attack would be Israel's second this week against Syria.
U.S. media reports over the weekend said Israel targeted a weapons shipment to Hizbullah in neighboring Lebanon overnight Thursday. Israel has so far refused to confirm or deny the bombing.
A diplomatic source in Lebanon told AFP that the operation destroyed surface-to-air missiles recently delivered by Russia that were being stored at Damascus airport.
Another report in the New York Times suggested that the “game changing” weapons destroyed in an Israeli airstrike were sent by Iran.
The strike reportedly targeted Fateh-110 missiles. The Fateh-110 has a range of up to 300 kilometers.
Syrian sources gave the New York Times similar information, saying that Iran had sent arms and rockets to Damascus International Airport and planned to ship them on to Hizbullah.
Israel implicitly confirmed it staged an air strike on Syria in late January as President Bashar al-Assad accused the Jewish state of trying to further destabilize his war-torn country.
That air strike targeted surface-to-air missiles and an adjacent military complex believed to house chemical agents, a U.S. official said at the time.
Speaking after Friday’s alleged Israeli airstrike, U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday that Israel is justified in protecting itself from advanced weapons shipments to Hizbullah.
Obama joined Israeli officials in declining to comment on the reported strike, saying he would let Israel "confirm or deny whatever strikes they have taken."
"What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hizbullah," the president told Spanish-language Telemundo television during a trip to Mexico and Central America.
"We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognizing that they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon."