damascus

Syrian truck driver on road to Damascus reportedly killed by Israeli drone

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Syrian man was killed when the truck he was driving in the Quneitra region of the Golan Heights on the road to Damascus allegedly was fired on by an Israeli drone, Syrian media is reporting.

The Israel Defense Forces is not commenting on the alleged air strike, neither confirming nor denying the Syrian reports.

The alleged victim has been named as Yasser al-Sayed, with some reports calling him a terrorist member of Hezbollah and others identifying him as a civilian.

Hours before the strike, Syrian media reported that Syrian army forces had repelled an Israeli drone in the same area.

The actions come after the IDF confirmed carrying out aerial strikes in Syria and intercepting missiles launched at its aircraft from the ground on Thursday night.

No Israelis were hurt during the strikes Thursday night or from the anti-aircraft fire, the first time that Israel has used the Arrow anti-missile system.

According to the nrg news site, the strikes Thursday were against targets affiliated with Hezbollah, possibly on a weapons shipment to the Shiite terrorist group, which is based in Lebanon but is fighting in Syria alongside Assad’s forces against rebels and Sunni militants.

The incidents on Thursday are reported to be the most serious between Syria and Israel since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war six years ago. At that time, Israel Air Force planes struck targets in Syria and Syria’s air defense system fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli planes.

Israel is believed to have carried out several attacks on Syrian soil in recent years, but usually refrains from confirming or denying reports on its alleged actions there.

Also on Sunday, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in an interview with Israel Radio threatened to take out Syrian air defense systems.

“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman said. “Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise.”

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Israel said to strike Syria for second time in 24 hours, amid threats from Damascus

Israel is said to have struck Syria overnight Sunday-Monday, the second strike in 24 hours and third in three days as tensions escalated between the two countries over the weekend.

Syria media reported early Monday that Israeli jets took out a number of targets near the Lebanon-Syria border including a Hezbollah weapons convoy and Syrian military sites.

The reports have not been confirmed.

Earlier Sunday, an Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia, an attack that came two days after Israeli jets, in an early Friday morning operation, hit an arms transfer meant for Hezbollah near Palmyra, with Syrian air defenses firing missiles at the planes.

One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense battery, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system. It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

On Sunday evening, Syria’s ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said Syria’s response to Friday’s strike was a “game-changer.”

Speaking on Syrian state TV, Jaafari said the military’s response was “appropriate and in line with Israel’s terrorist operation,” and that Israel “will now think a million times [before striking again],” according to a translation cited in Ynet.

“Syria’s forceful response to the Israeli attacks changed the rules of the game,” he said.

His comments came hours after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems for targeting the Israeli aircraft during the bombing run Friday.

“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman said on Israel Radio.

Israeli officials have warned of the possibility Hezbollah and Iran could attempt to set up a base to attack Israel near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, where he asked the Kremlin to make sure Iran does not gain a foothold in the area.

Israel has also repeatedly vowed to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring any advanced weaponry and several strikes on such convoys over the years since the Syrian civil war began in 2011 have been attributed to Israel. Jerusalem has also claimed several of the raids, including Friday’s.

“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Liberman said Sunday.

“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hezbollah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do.”

Earlier Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli aircraft struck a truck driving near the town of Khan Arnabeh in the Quneitra province, on the road to Damascus.

The National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia set up in 2012, claimed the man killed was from among its ranks, naming him as Yasser Hussien Assayed.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

pro-regime media reporting Israeli drone targeted civilian car near Khan Arnebe in Qunitera and killed 1civilian “Yasser al-Sayed”

The group, reportedly set up with the help of Hezbollah, published four pictures on Facebook it said were from the scene of the alleged airstrike. The group said an Israeli drone carried out the strike.

The Lebanese news channel NBN reported that the man killed was a Syrian air defense commander. Other reports said Assayed was a civilian.

Twin bombings kill at least 46 in Damascus Old City

DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) — Twin bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims on Saturday killed 46 people in Damascus, most of them Iraqis, a monitoring group said, in one of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian capital.

There have been periodic bomb attacks in Damascus, but the stronghold of the regime of President Bashar Assad has been largely spared the destruction faced by other major cities in six years of civil war.

A roadside bomb detonated as a bus passed and a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Bab al-Saghir area, which houses several Shiite mausoleums that draw pilgrims from around the world, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“There are also dozens of people wounded, some of them in a serious condition,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

State television said there were 40 dead and 120 wounded after “terrorists detonated two bombs.”

It broadcast footage of several white buses with their windows shattered, some of them heavily charred.

Shoes, glasses and wheelchairs laid scattered on the ground covered in blood.

Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad Shaar said the attack targeted “pilgrims of various Arab nationalities.”

“The sole aim was to kill,” he said.

The Iraqi foreign ministry said around 40 of its nationals were among the dead and 120 among the wounded.

There was no immediate claim for the attack.

Shiite shrines are a frequent target of attack for Sunni extremists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (IS), not only in Syria but also in neighboring Iraq.

The Sayeda Zeinab mausoleum to the south of Damascus, Syria’s most visited Shiite pilgrimage site, has been hit by several deadly bombings during the six-year-old civil war.

Twin suicide bombings in the high-security Kafr Sousa district of the capital in January killed 10 people, eight of them soldiers.

That attack was claimed by former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front which said that it had targeted Russian military advisers working with the Syrian army.

It was widely seen as an attempt to disrupt UN-brokered peace talks that took place the following month which to the anger of Fateh al-Sham were supported by its former Islamist rebel ally Ahrar al-Sham.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has called a new round of talks for March 23.

Fateh al-Sham has been repeatedly bombed in its northwestern stronghold this year, not only by the Syrian army and its Russian ally but also by a US-led coalition battling IS in both Syria and Iraq.

The rift over the UN-brokered talks between the rebels and the government has also seen deadly clashes between the jihadists and their former Islamist rebel allies.

The two groups had together seized virtually all of the northwestern province of Idlib but are now vying for territorial control.

Bomb attacks are rare in Damascus. The Syrian capital is sometimes the target of shelling by rebel groups who hold areas on the outskirts.

On December 16 a seven-year-old girl wearing an explosive belt blew herself up outside a police station in Midan district, wounding three police officers.

Two blasts near state security agencies in Kafr Sousa in December 2011 killed more than 40 people and wounded more than 150, the Syrian government said at the time.

Israeli jets strike outside Damascus – Syrian media

Syrian media reported that Israeli aircraft targeted Syrian Army positions, including a convoy bearing weapons for the Hezbollah terrorist group, early Wednesday morning.

The strike was said to have occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m., in the Qalamoun Mountains, northeast of Damascus, close to the Lebanese border.

According to Arab media, outposts of the Syrian Army’s 3rd Division were targeted in the strikes.

The Syrian Shaam news service quoted a spokesperson for the nearby city of Yarboud who said the Israeli jets fired six missiles at the various targets.

Some were directed toward military positions, while others targeted weapons caches near Ba’albak, in the eastern Qalamoun range, and set alight a Hezbollah convoy, according to the spokesperson, Abu al-Jude al-Qalamouni.

Anonymous security sources confirmed to the Lebanese al-Mayadeen outlet, which is supportive of Hezbollah, that missiles had been fired into Syria, but said that no damage or injuries were caused.

The sources also said that only two missiles, not six, had been fired.

The pro-government al-Masdar news service quoted a Syrian Army source as saying that the Israeli aircraft flew first through Lebanon and then into Syria.

Israeli aerial activity over Lebanon was also reported in the Beirut-based al-Jadeed outlet.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson refused to comment on the strike.

Israel has said in the past that it will conduct airstrikes in Syria and Lebanon in order to prevent Hezbollah from getting its hands on “advanced weaponry.”

Earlier this week, it was reported that Hezbollah had obtained advanced Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles.

In December, Syria blamed Israel for a missile strike on the Mezzeh Military Airport, located in a suburb of Damascus, which was apparently being used as a weapons depot.

A general view shows flames and smoke at the Mezzeh military airport on the southwestern outskirts of the capital Damascus following an explosion early on January 13, 2017. (AFP)

In recent days, Hezbollah and Lebanon have ratcheted up their rhetoric against Israel.

Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened the Jewish state, warning that his group’s missiles could reach Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona.

He doubled down on those comments on Tuesday, saying there would be “no red lines” in a future conflict with Israel.

“In the face of Israel’s threats to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure, we will not abide by red lines, especially regarding Haifa’s ammonia and the nuclear reactor in Dimona. Hezbollah possesses the full courage for this,” he said, according to an English translation of his comments reported by the Naharnet website.

And Saturday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun — an ally of Hezbollah — warned that his country would meet any perceived threats by Israel with an “appropriate response,” after the Israeli ambassador to the UN complained about his statements regarding Hezbollah.

“Any attempt to hurt Lebanese sovereignty or expose the Lebanese to danger will find the appropriate response,” Aoun said in an official statement, according to Reuters.

Damascus denies accusations of chlorine use in Aleppo

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s government on Wednesday fiercely denied accusations by Human Rights Watch that it used chemical weapons in its battle for Aleppo, shrugging off the group’s report as “unprofessional and unscientific.”

In a major report released Monday, Human Rights Watch said Syrian government forces had carried out at least eight chemical attacks in late 2016 as they were fighting to capture second city Aleppo.

But a Syrian foreign ministry source cited by state media said the report was based on fabricated testimony.

“The government of the Syrian Arab Republic altogether denies the false allegations made in Human Rights Watch’s report,” the source said.

“Human Rights Watch’s reliance on terrorist media sources and on fake eyewitnesses… proves this report’s lack of credibility,” it said, describing the conclusions as “unprofessional and unscientific.”

HRW said it interviewed witnesses, collected photos and reviewed video footage indicating that chlorine bombs were dropped from government helicopters during the offensive from November 17 to December 13.

It concluded that nine people, including four children, were killed and another 200 were injured by the toxic gases used on opposition-controlled areas of the northern city.

Syria’s government regained full control of Aleppo in late December, in the biggest win for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the conflict first began in March 2011.

Chlorine use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013 under pressure from Russia.

A joint investigation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that several units of the Syrian army had used toxic weapons against three villages in northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.

And in January, the United States announced new sanctions against 18 senior Syrian miliary officers and officials over the use of chemical weapons.

Damascus airbase said bombed by Israeli planes

http://www.timesofisrael.com/damascus-airbase-said-bombed-by-israeli-planes/

 

A series of major explosions were reported around a military airbase near the Syrian capital of Damascus just after midnight on Thursday. Local media outlets attributed the airstrikes on the al-Mazzeh airport to Israeli military aircraft.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage inflicted by the strikes, but ambulances were said to be en route to the scene.

An AFP correspondent heard several explosions and saw a large fire inside the Mazzeh military airport, with smoke visible across the capital.

Videos posted online purporting to show Friday’s attack showed several massive fires, with sirens wailing in the background.


لحظة استهداف الطيران الحربي الإسرائيلي لمطار العسكري بدمشق واندلاع الحرائق

State news agency SANA also reported the blasts and said ambulances were rushing to the scene.

The IDF doesn’t comment on foreign reports of military operations.

The report of Israeli military action was the first in over a month. The last incident also involved an attack on the Mazzeh airbase. In early December Syrian state media reported that the IDF fired missiles from within “occupied” territory at an important Syrian regime airbase outside Damascus.

اندلاع ألسنة اللهب من محيط مطار المزة بعد عدة انفجارات متتالية في المنطقة
Rockets strike at Mezzeh Military airport in Damascus minutes ago

“At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

SANA said the missiles were fired from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada,” a mountain in the Israeli Golan Heights known as Mount Avital in Israel.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.”

Lack of water access in Damascus is creating risks for children, UN warns

On 4 January 2017, UNICEF started trucking water to 50 schools in the Syrian capital Damascus and surrounding areas. Since 22 December 2016, water has been cut for at least 4 million people as a result of fighting in the Wadi Barada area. Photo: UNICEF/Muhannad Al- Asadi

6 January 2017 – Following two weeks with no access to running water for millions of people in and around Damascus due to ongoing fighting near the Syrian capital, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today raised the alarm over a potential increase in diarrheal diseases among children.

While private distributors are providing water, Christophe Boulierac, a spokesperson for UNICEF, told reporters at the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva that he is worried about quality and price of those supplies.

Residents have been able to access water for up to two hours every three or four days through water rationing. But many have turned to private distributors, where neither price nor quality are regulated, prompting concerns about the risk of water-borne diseases among children. In many areas, families are paying up to $12 for only 1,000 litres of water.

UNICEF also reported that children are taking on the burden of water collection for their families and that most children had walked at least half an hour to collect water from the nearest mosque or public water point. They waited in line for up to two hours in freezing temperatures.

So far, UNICEF and its partners have rehabilitated and equipped 120 wells in and around Damascus in order to provide a third of residents’ daily water needs. As of 22 December, those wells were the only source of water for the entire city. Following the cuts, UNICEF also provided generators and fuel in order to increase water production for 3.5 million people. This past week, daily water trucking resumed for 50 schools in Damascus to reach up to 30,000 children.

However, these solutions are only temporary and UNICEF and its partners are ready to support repair work to damaged sources and networks as soon as access is granted. The agency emphasized that all parties to the conflict must meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect all civilian infrastructure, including water facilities.

Mr. Boulierac reported that the area’s two primary water sources – in Wadi Barada – are natural springs and have been affected by fighting, but he was unable to immediately provide further details about access or the process to arrange deliveries.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), Tarik Jasarevic, added that once teams had access to public water utilities, it would take a minimum of four days to complete repairs, possibly longer depending on the nature of the damage. He also noted that some people are using water sources near the river within Damascus, and that that water has yet to be tested for bacterial safety.

Clashes erupt near Damascus, threatening fragile Syria truce

IDLIB, Syria (AFP) — A ceasefire was holding across most of Syria on Friday but clashes near Damascus underlined the fragility of the deal brokered by Turkey and key regime ally Russia.

The nationwide truce, the first since September, is intended to pave the way for new peace talks in Kazakhstan being organized by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.

The agreement comes a week after Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army recaptured second city Aleppo in a major blow to rebel forces.

On the first day of the ceasefire Friday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported sporadic violence in the Wadi Barada area, where opposition fighters have cut water supplies to the capital.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said it was unclear who had started the clashes, with both sides blaming the other.

Syria’s government had been shelling Wadi Barada before the truce began at midnight as it pushes rebels there to accept a “reconciliation deal” and leave the area.

A Syrian boy and a school guard stand outside a school in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on December 30, 2016, on the first day of a nationwide truce. (Abd Doumany/AFP)

A Syrian boy and a school guard stand outside a school in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on December 30, 2016, on the first day of a nationwide truce. (Abd Doumany/AFP)

The forces present there include former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, which Syria’s government says is excluded from the ceasefire.

Opposition figures however say the truce applies to all rebel-held territory, even where Fateh al-Sham is present.

Last week, rebels attacked water infrastructure in Wadi Barada and neighboring Ain al-Fijeh, cutting supplies to the capital.

Four million people in Damascus and its suburbs have now been without water for a week, the UN says.

The clashes in Wadi Barada were the most serious of several isolated incidents of violence since the truce began.

The Observatory reported at least 16 government air strikes across several areas in Hama province in central Syria, but no casualties.

Tired of war

In rebel-held Idlib province, however, it was quiet and residents expressed hope for respite from the bloody conflict.

“I support the ceasefire… and I support its continuation,” said 31-year-old Ahmed Astify.

“Everyone, whether rebels or regular people, is tired,” he added.

“We hope that this will lead to the end of the war,” added Mohammed, 28.

“After nearly six years, everyone has concluded there can be no military settlement… I support a peaceful resolution,” he told AFP.

 In this June 18, 2016 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, shakes hands with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Damascus, Syria. (Vadim Savitsky/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service pool photo via AP, File)

In this June 18, 2016 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, shakes hands with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Damascus, Syria. (Vadim Savitsky/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service pool photo via AP, File)

Syria’s government and its ally Iran both welcomed the ceasefire deal with Damascus, calling it a “real opportunity” to find a political solution to a war that has killed more than 310,000 people since it began with anti-regime protests in March 2011.

Washington also described the truce as “positive” despite being left out of the process.

Analysts were cautious but said the involvement of key regime backers Russia and Iran along with rebel supporter Turkey could be important.

Sam Heller, fellow at The Century Foundation, said there was “real interest and urgency” from Moscow and Ankara, but expressed doubts about whether Tehran and Damascus were on board.

“All indications are that Iran and the regime want to continue towards a military conclusion,” he said.

He said renewed fighting in Wadi Barada or Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held area outside Damascus, could pose major threats to the truce.

Talks in Astana

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he would now reduce Moscow’s military contingent in Syria, which has been fighting to bolster the government since last year.

But he added Russia would continue to fight “terrorism” and maintain its support for the government.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said Ankara would continue the operation it began in August targeting the Islamic State group and Kurdish fighters.

Syrian civilians drive past a tractor removing rubble as the Syrian government starts to clean up areas formerly held by opposition forces in the northern city of Aleppo on December 27, 2016, in the Shaar district. (AFP/George Ourfalian)

Syrian civilians drive past a tractor removing rubble as the Syrian government starts to clean up areas formerly held by opposition forces in the northern city of Aleppo on December 27, 2016, in the Shaar district. (AFP/George Ourfalian)

Moscow says seven key rebel groups have signed up to the deal, including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham faction, but the truce does not include jihadists such as Islamic State or Fateh al-Sham.

But Syria’s political opposition and rebels said the truce applied to all parts of the country.

“The agreement includes a ceasefire in all areas held by the moderate opposition, or by the moderate opposition and elements from Fateh al-Sham, such as Idlib province,” said Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the National Coalition opposition body.

Despite backing opposite sides in the conflict, Turkey and Russia have worked increasingly closely on Syria, brokering a deal this month to allow the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians and rebel fighters from Aleppo.

They are now pushing for peace talks between Damascus and the rebels to start next month in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura said he hoped the agreement would “pave the way for productive talks”, but also reiterated he wants negotiations mediated by his office to continue next year.

Russia and Turkey say the Astana peace talks are meant to supplement UN-backed peace efforts, rather than replace them, and want to involve regional players like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan.

Washington is conspicuously absent from the new process, but Moscow said it hoped to bring US President-elect Donald Trump’s administration on board once he takes office in January.

Syria confirms airstrike outside Damascus, blames Israel

The official Syrian news agency on Wednesday confirmed there was an airstrike near Damascus overnight, and blamed Israel, saying the attack was an attempt to bolster the morale of rebel fighters as they suffer the successes of regime forces.

Arabic-language media had reported earlier that Israeli aircraft struck a Syrian military target as well as a Hezbollah weapons convoy.

“In an attempt to divert attention from the successes achieved by the Syrian Arab army and to raise the deteriorating morals of the terrorist gangs, warplanes of the Israeli enemy launched two rockets on Damascus countryside at dawn on Wednesday,” SANA reported, citing a military source.

According to the source, the attack caused no casualties. He confirmed reports that said the missiles were launched from Lebanese airspace and hit the al-Sabboura area to the West of the capital, Damascus. He did not specify the target.

The second reported raid, on the Hezbollah weapons convoy, was said to have taken place on the Damascus-Beirut highway. The Syrian official made no reference to it.

As with past claims of Israeli strikes, Israel did not immediately confirm or deny news of the purported attacks. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, a number of airstrikes in Syria or close to the border with Lebanon have been attributed to Israel. According to reports Wednesday morning, Israel requested Russia’s approval before launching the strikes.

News agencies affiliated with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad said the air raid on the military compound occurred at 1:15 a.m. local time and that four large explosions were heard in the capital. They further reported that the strikes were carried out by Israeli Air Force planes operating in Lebanese air space.

According to the Kuwaiti news network al-Rai, the warplanes also struck a number of vehicles traveling on the main highway believed to have been part of a weapons convoy led by Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has thousands of fighters in Syria, providing military aid to Assad regime and Iranian forces.

In April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel had carried out dozens of strikes against Hezbollah to prevent the group from obtaining advanced weapons — a rare Israeli admission.

Israel has vowed to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining “game-changing” arms — in particular advanced anti-aircraft systems and chemical weapons.

Earlier this week, the Israeli Air Force struck a military target belonging to the Islamic State terror group on the Syrian side of the southern Golan Heights.

The raid early Monday was the second Israeli airstrike to respond to an attack a day earlier by IS fighters against IDF soldiers. According to an army spokesperson, soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit came under attack from small arms fire after crossing the security fence on the border but remaining inside Israeli territory. They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells. No Israeli soldiers were injured in the exchange, the army said.

The IDF responded with an airstrike that morning that killed four members of an Islamic State-affiliated terror group that it said had launched the attack. The military said the second airstrike Monday was also in response to the initial attack.

The IDF “will not hesitate to act against terror groups that operate against the State of Israel,” a military statement read.

The Syrian Golan has been the site of intense fighting in recent years between Assad regime forces and the IS-affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, though the front on the border with Israel has been relatively quiet in recent months after previous intense bouts of violence.

Israeli officials fear Hezbollah and Iran’s al-Quds Force, which are allied with Assad, are aiming to use the area to open a new front against Israel in a future conflict.

Since March 2011, when the Syrian conflict began, dozens of mortar shells have landed in Israeli territory as a result of accidental spillover from the fighting. The IDF often responds to fire that crosses into Israel by striking Syrian army posts. Israel maintains a policy of holding Damascus responsible for all fire from Syria into Israel regardless of the source.

Rouhani: If not for Iran, IS would rule Baghdad and Damascus

If not for Iran, the world would now be facing the Islamic State as a terrorist government in charge of Baghdad and Damascus, and not just a terror group, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed.

At a conference on Saturday, Rouhani said that Iran was a “pioneer in fighting against extremism and violence in the world in word and action.”

“If Iran hadn’t help, ISIL would have been materialized practically and today, we would be facing an ISIL terrorist government instead of a terrorist group,” he said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency which used another acronym for the Islamic State.

Iran came to the aid of Iraq and Syria to stop the rapid advances of the group, in the summer on 2014, and had it done so, Baghdad and Damascus would today be in the hands of the terror group, Rouhani said, according to Iranian media.

Also Saturday, an Iranian minister claimed Syria was on the frontlines of “plans and plots” against Iran and that IS was continuously attempting to send terror cells to the Islamic Republic.

Speaking to a Lebanese TV station affiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi also said that Iran had offered Syrian President Bashar Assad and his family asylum in Iran, which Assad had refused.

Iran has been a staunch ally of Assad and has sent its own forces to fight alongside his military in the war-torn country.

The Islamic State seized large swathes of land in both Syria and Iraq in a military blitz in June 2014, killing thousands and taking hundreds of women and children from minority communities as prisoners.

Iran is said to have carried out a series of air strikes, at the request of Iraq, following the fall of Mosul to the terror group and sent ground troops to help stop its advance.

A US-led coalition against the Islamic State began operating in September 2015, mainly through airstrikes.