(Bloomberg) -- Israeli aircraft struck Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria overnight in an operation rare in its intensity.
The overnight missile strikes killed 11 people, including as many as four Syrian soldiers, foreign media reported, and damaged the international airport in Damascus. State-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported waves of attacks early Monday and the interception of dozens of missiles, and Israel took the unusual step of acknowledging the assault.
The operation followed a day of violence that began with a raid on Syria widely attributed to the Israeli air force, and the firing of a surface-to-surface missile from Syria that Israel blamed on Iranian Quds forces stationed there. Israel’s air defense system intercepted the missile, the military said.
Even as its civil war winds down, Syria has continued to be combustible as players operating in the area try to define its postwar character. Israel for its part has vowed not to allow Iranian forces to entrench there, saying a permanent presence will give Tehran and its proxies a base from which to attack Israeli targets.
In recent weeks, as the U.S. prepares to pull out from Syria, leaving the arena to Russia and Iranian forces backing President Bashar al-Assad, Israel has become more open about its operations there. In the past it had rarely acknowledged individual strikes.
The Israeli military, which has not confirmed or denied the initial attack on Syria, said its overnight assault targeted Iranian munition storage sites and a storage facility at Damascus international airport. An Iranian intelligence facility and military training camp were also hit.
During the overnight strikes, dozens of Syrian surface-to-air missiles were launched, despite Israeli warnings to avoid such fire, the military said in a statement. In response, an unspecified number of Syrian aerial defense batteries were struck, it said.
“We saw that as an unacceptable attack by Iranian troops, not proxies,” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said in a briefing to reporters. “Yesterday Syria paid a price for allowing Iran to plan attacks and to conduct attacks from its soil.”
He said the military was on an “elevated level of readiness’ after the attack.
Four Syrian soldiers were among the dead, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian war, reported that 11 people were killed in all.
The “‘Israeli enemy dealt a heavy strike” with waves of guided missiles, Syria’s SANA news agency reported. "Our air defenses immediately dealt with the situation and intercepted the hostile missiles and destroyed most of them before” they reached their goals, the news service reported, adding that it shot down dozens.
(Updates throughout with details of strikes, fatalities.)
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