AT LEAST four Syrian army troops have been killed and three others injured after ‘hostile’ Israeli missiles hit the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, in yet another act of aggression against the Arab country.
Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing a military source, reported that Israeli aircraft fired several missiles from the direction of the northeastern Israeli city of Tiberias, which lies on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, at areas in the vicinity of Damascus at 0.41am local time on Wednesday (21:41 GMT Wednesday).
Most of the projectiles were intercepted and destroyed before hitting any of their targets, it added.
The source said four soldiers had lost their lives while three others were wounded. The airstrike also caused some material damage.
Back on April 14, Israeli missiles were intercepted by the Syrian air defence systems over the western countryside of Damascus.
An unnamed military source said at the time that the missiles were reportedly fired from the direction of Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A similar attack was carried out by Israel on April 9 against the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf, which only caused material losses at the targeted area.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.
Israel frequently targets military positions inside Syria, especially those of the resistance movement Hezbollah which has played a key role in helping the Syrian army in its fight against the foreign-backed terrorists.
The Tel Aviv regime mostly keeps quiet about its attacks on Syrian territories which many view as a knee-jerk reaction to the Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism.
Israel has been a main supporter of terrorist groups that have opposed the government of President Bashar al-Assad since foreign-backed militancy erupted in Syria nine years ago.
Russian Ambassador to Damascus, Alexander Efimov, has strongly condemned Israeli airstrikes against various targets in Syria, stating that the aerial raids are aimed at provoking Moscow to react.
Also on Tuesday, an Israeli military drone crashed in the Syrian territory.
The Israeli military said the incident was being investigated, claiming that no sensitive information was lost due to the crash and there was no risk of intelligence being taken from the device.
The military did not specify the drone model or the circumstances that led to its crash.
While it remains unclear what exactly caused the unmanned aerial vehicle to fall, similar past incidents have been reported by the Israeli military as the result of technical mishaps.
Back in September last year, a similar event occurred when another drone which belonged to the Israeli military fell in the Syrian territory after it purportedly suffered a technical malfunction.
- Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya has once again denounced Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, stating that the regime’s plans for the expansion of its illegal settlements in the strategic region undermine regional stability.
He made the remarks during a UN Security Council session on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question in New York on Monday.
‘Israel’s settlement plans in the occupied Syrian Golan threaten to undermine regional stability,’ Nebenzya said.
In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied a large area of the Golan and annexed it four years later – a move never recognised by the international community.
In 1973, another war broke out, and a year later, a UN-brokered ceasefire came into force, according to which Tel Aviv and Damascus agreed to separate their troops and create a buffer zone in the Heights. However, Israel has over the past several decades built dozens of illegal settlements in the Golan in defiance of international calls for the regime to stop its illegal construction activities there.
In a unilateral move rejected by the international community in 2019, former US president Donald Trump signed a decree recognising Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the Golan.
Nevertheless, Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.
Russia has censured Israel’s plans to expand its illegal settlement activity in the occupied Golan Heights, stressing that the Golan is an inalienable part of Syria.
The United Nations has also time and again emphasised Syria’s sovereignty over the territory.
Earlier this year, Deputy Russian Ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said Russia is concerned over Tel Aviv’s announced plans for expanding settlement activity in the occupied Golan Heights.
He said the move directly contradicts the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
‘We stress Russia’s unchanging position, according to which we do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that are an inalienable part of Syria,’ Polyanskiy said on February 23.
Last December, Israel announced that it intends to double the number of its illegal settlements in the Golan, despite an earlier resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly demanding the regime’s full withdrawal from the occupied territory.
Israeli-Russian relations have soured since the beginning of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. Observers had already predicted that the Russia-Ukraine crisis could put Israel in a difficult position, as the Tel Aviv regime has good relations with both Moscow and Kiev.
Earlier this month, the Israeli regime voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly resolution suspending the Russian Federation’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council.
Reacting to the vote, the Russian foreign ministry called the resolution ‘unlawful and politically motivated.’
Russia’s ambassador to Israel says his country would introduce retaliatory measures against Israel if it provides aid to Ukraine.
It also called the Israeli regime’s support for it ‘a thinly veiled attempt to take advantage of the situation around Ukraine in order to divert the attention of the international community from one of the oldest unresolved conflicts – the Palestinian-Israeli one.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine on February 24, following Moscow’s recognition of self-declared Lugansk and Donetsk republics, collectively known as the Donbass. The two breakaway regions, located in eastern Ukraine, are largely populated by ethnic Russians.
- Hundreds of Syrians have denounced an Israeli plan to double the settler population in the Golan Heights, saying they will put up resistance and steadfastness to thwart the Tel Aviv regime’s schemes aimed at displacement of the local community and construction of more illegal settlements there.
The protesters said the strategic area has been and will be an integral part of Syrian territories and that locals will frustrate Israeli schemes aimed at changing the demographic characteristics of the territory as they have not allowed the regime to consolidate its hold on the region, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.
Hayel Masoud, a protester, deplored Israel’s intention to double the number of settlers living in the Golan Heights in the coming years, stating that Israeli authorities seek to Judaise the area and plunder its natural resources.
During a meeting held on Sunday at the Mevo Hama community in the Golan, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s cabinet voted in favour of the plan to double settler population in the region. The plan aims to build 7,300 settler homes in the area over a five-year period.
It calls for one billion Israeli shekels ($317 million) to be spent on settler units, infrastructure and other projects with the goal of attracting roughly 23,000 new Jewish settlers to the area, which Israel captured from Syria more than 50 years ago.
Israel intends to double the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied Golan Heights despite normalisation deals, which oblige the regime to freeze its land expropriation and settlement expansion plans.
‘This is our moment. This is the moment of the Golan Heights,’ Bennett told ministers. ‘After long and static years in terms of the scope of settlement, our goal today is to double settlement in the Golan Heights.’
During the cabinet meeting, the right-wing Israeli prime minister announced two new neighbourhoods in the town of Katzrin, as well as two new communities to be named Asif and Matar, each with about 2,000 settler units.
Bennett had announced the plan in October, saying that the ultimate goal was to double and eventually quadruple the Israeli settler population in the Golan Heights, from almost 27,000 to 50,000, and then increase it to 100,000 settlers in the coming years.
‘The Golan Heights is Israeli, full stop,’ he said at the time.
Bennett claimed that the Joe Biden administration had adopted former US president Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of its 1967 Six-Day War on Arab countries, which also saw the regime occupy the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds and the Gaza Strip.
Tel Aviv unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move not recognised by the international community.
Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.
In March 2019, Trump signed a decree recognising Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the occupied Golan during a meeting with then Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington.
Almost 22,000 Syrian Druze live in the Golan Heights and are facing numerous Israeli settlement projects, including building wind turbines on their farming lands.