Syria accuses Israel of firing rockets at Damascus military airport

The Syrian army command said Friday that Israel fired rockets at a major military airport west of the capital of Damascus and warned Israel of repercussions for what it called a "flagrant" attack.

Allegations come after a bloody Thursday in Syria that saw a suspected suicide blast and a deadly airstrike

A man inspects damage after a deadly explosion hit the Kafr Sousa neighbourhood of Damascus amid a Syria-wide ceasefire, which the UN says is still 'largely holding.' (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

The Syrian army command said on Friday that Israel fired rockets at a major military airport west of the capital of Damascus, and warned Israel of repercussions for what it called a "flagrant" attack.

Syrian state television quoted the army as saying several rockets were fired from an area near Lake Tiberias in northern Israel just after midnight which landed in the compound of the airport, a major facility for elite Republican Guards.

"Syrian army command and armed forces warn Israel of the repercussions of the flagrant attack and stresses its continued fight against [this] terrorism," the army command said in a statement.

The statement did not disclose if there were any casualties, but said the rockets caused a fire. Earlier, state television said several major explosions hit Mezzeh military airport compound near Damascus and ambulances were rushed to the area, without giving details.

The airport, southwest of the capital, had been a base used to fire rockets at former rebel-held areas in the suburbs of Damascus.

It was the third such Israeli strike into Syria recently, according to the Syrian government.

On Dec. 7, the Syrian government reported Israel fired surface-to-surface missiles that also struck near Mezzeh airport. A week earlier, state news said Israeli jets fired two missiles from Lebanese airspace toward the outskirts of Damascus, in the Sabboura area.

The Israeli military has declined to comment on those incidents, and there was no immediate comment on Friday's attack.

Suspected suicide bombing

The allegations come after a powerful blast caused by a suspected suicide bomber in a heavily policed district of the Syrian capital killed at least seven people on Thursday, following an airstrike northern Aleppo province that killed at least six civilians.

A police source was quoted by state television as saying a suicide bomber blew himself in the Kafr Sousa neighbourhood, where some of Syria's main security installations are located.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence across the country, said the death toll was expected to rise, with several of the wounded in a critical condition.

Footage on state media showed splattered blood and wreckage of several cars with dozens of heavily armed security personnel at the site of the explosion.

A person stands near bloodstains after an explosion in Kafr Sousa neighbourhood of Damascus, where a suspected suicide bombing claimed at least seven lives. (Omar Sanadiki /Reuters)

Last July a car bomb also hit Kafr Sousa near an Iranian school in an attack that killed several people in the area, close to the main Umayyad Square that connects the city with several highways.

Insurgents fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad say the district houses many recruits from Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside the army.

Children among victims of airstrike

Earlier in the day, UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said a countrywide ceasefire was "largely holding with some exceptions," as opposition activists reported a mounting number of government airstrikes, including the raid in Aleppo province.

The opposition-run Syrian Civil Defence, a search and rescue group also known as the White Helmets, said its workers pulled the bodies of three children and three adults from the rubble of an airstrike Thursday on the village of Babka in the opposition-held countryside west of the once-contested city of Aleppo.

Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, speaks during a news conference in Geneva on Thursday, where he said the war-torn country's ceasefire is 'largely holding.' (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via Associated Press)

It was not clear who was behind the raid and others like it in the Aleppo countryside. Syrian and Russian aircraft regularly bombed the province before the ceasefire went into effect. The U.S. is believed to be behind a series of strikes in the neighbouring Idlib province that activists say have killed several Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The Observatory reported four children among the dead.

The raid followed a day of strikes on two opposition pockets outside Damascus. 

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, de Mistura said he was concerned that fighting northwest of Damascus that has cut off the capital's clean water supply would further escalate and derail proposed negotiations between the government and the opposition in Astana, Kazakhstan, this month.

The talks are sponsored by Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides of the Syrian civil war.

But the status of the meeting, planned for Jan. 23, is not clear. Rebels say the government's continued campaign for the Barada Valley, the capital's main source of water, has put the talks in doubt.


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With files from The Associated Press