Syrian army says Israeli strike near Damascus kills soldier

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Israeli jets fired missiles on targets near Damascus early Wednesday, killing one Syrian soldier and wounding three others, Syria’s military said.

A Syrian military official said the attack took place after midnight in the Zabadani region in the Damascus countryside and that it targeted a Syrian air defense unit and caused material damage. The unnamed official was quoted by the official SANA news agency.

A war monitoring group said the strike also hit a weapons and rocket warehouse for Iran-allied militias.

It was the second reported attack in the past week. On Christmas eve Thursday, Israeli jets bombed targets in the central Syrian town of Masyaf, reportedly targeting a weapons depot and facilities used for manufacturing short-range missiles.

The Syrian military didn’t provide further details on the Wednesday attack. Israel rarely comments on such reports, but has acknowledged it carries out attacks inside Syria during the course of the country’s civil war, adding that it would not tolerate growing Iranian influence along its borders.

Iran and allied militias have played a key role in Syria’s civil war since 2011.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry protested the repeated attacks inside its territory, calling on the U.N in a letter Wednesday to exercise its responsibility in halting such “terrorist Israeli attacks.” The ministry said Israel’s violations are possible because of “unconditional support” from the U.S., calling them a threat to peace and security in the region and internationally. The letter was carried by SANA.

Israel has said most of its attacks have been aimed at suspected Iranian 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.

Britain-based war monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli strikes targeted a weapons and rocket warehouse used by the Iran-allied Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other militias.

The Observatory said the warehouses had been carved into mountains in the area, which has become a haven for Iran-backed militias during the conflict.

The Observatory also said the strikes hit a Syrian air defense unit as it attempted to respond to the incoming missiles, killing one soldier and wounding five others. Russian troops, also a key ally of the Syrian government, are deployed nearby, the Observatory said.

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