Israeli Syria strike targeted Hezb'allah officials
The Israeli air force struck several targets inside Syria yesterday, hitting ammunition dumps and, according to a U.S. Defense Department official, Hezb'allah leaders who had boarded a plane bound for Iran.
Several leaders of Hezbollah have reportedly been hit by an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus.
The information was given to Newsweek from a Department of Defense source with access to the information from Israeli senior military officers with direct knowledge of the attack. Israel's air strike was conducted minutes after the leaders boarded a plane bound for Iran.
Several Iranian ammunition supply points were also a target of the bombing, the source said. The supply points contained valuable, GPS-guided ammunition from 2017, some of the best available to the Iranian army and Hezbollah.
Syrian military confirmed via Syrian state media that an arms depot was hit in the attack and that three soldiers were wounded, Reuters reports.
"Our air defenses confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli war planes from above the Lebanese territories and downed most of them before reaching their targets," the military source said.
However, Israeli military did not confirm any air raids had taken place, instead saying that the country's response was a defensive maneuver.
"An aerial defense system was activated against an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria," a military spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Associated Press.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the unconfirmed report of Hezb'allah leadership being hit doesn't make much sense.
A Mahan Air flight left Damascus around 10 in the evening in the midst of the airstrikes. Mahan Air has been designated by the US Treasury Department for its links to the IRGC. Israel Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said in 2016 that Mahan Air was among those flights used by Tehran to supply Hezbollah. However these flights could fly directly to Beirut so why would a Hezbollah delegation need to travel to Damascus to board the flight?
The claim that the Hezbollah members were targeted and that they were traveling for the Shahroudi funeral has not been confirmed. Newsweek reported that a Department of Defense source had told them the strike was "conducted minutes after the leaders board a plane bound for Iran." Strikes also targeted ammunition warehouses that held precision ammunition. The claim that the Hezbollah members had already boarded a plane has not been corroborated with any footage on the ground that shows a plane being hit. A strike on a plane at a Damascus airport would be a serious escalation. The report may be only partly accurate and may indicate the men were struck on the way to board a blame [sic], not after they had boarded.
Whether the strike on Hez leadership actually happened may be in question, but the IDF targeting Iranian missiles and ammunition dumps is not. The Post also reports that Israeli warplanes launched their missiles in Lebanese air space. This is to avoid the Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles that protect Iranian assets in Syria.
Killing Hezb'allah's leadership has been a goal of the Israelis for years. The spiritual leader and warlord of the terror group, Hassan Nasrallah, is rarely seen in public – for obvious reasons. If the Israelis have penetrated Hezb'allah to where the travel plans of its leadership is known to them, that would be a significant intelligence coup.
We will watch news from Lebanon to see if there are some funerals of prominent Hezb'allah members.