Syrian state media withdraws report of strikes on 'targets' near Damascus airport

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 09.12.2018 23:40
Updated 10.12.2018 00:06

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) issued a report on Sunday saying Assad regime air defenses had intercepted enemy targets around Damascus international airport, but later in the day said the attack had not happened.

"Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport," the official SANA news agency said in its initial report.

The agency later removed the report from its website. Later still, it quoted a source at the Damascus international airport as saying "there was no attack on the airport and the air traffic is normal."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor, said however that there had been firing near the airport.

"Several explosion sounds were heard in Damascus suburbs ... as air defenses were launched" close to the airport, it said.

The latest incident comes just over a week after the Bashar Assad regime accused Israel of striking south of the capital.

The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.

Iran and Russia are the Assad regime's key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow's intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.

The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on Sept. 17 killed 15 service personnel.

Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.

Russia subsequently upgraded regime air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel "think carefully" before carrying out further air raids.

The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch-foe Iran's military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining "security coordination" with Moscow.

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