Syria says downs two Israeli missiles near capital

DAMASCUS: The Syrian army on Tuesday night intercepted two Israeli missiles fired towards a district near Damascus, Syria’s official Sana news agency said, but a monitor said nine pro-government fighters died in the strike.
According to Sana, “anti-aircraft defences intercepted two Israeli missiles launched against (the district of) Kissweh and destroyed them”.
The agency had earlier reported “explosions” in the southern suburb, while state television broadcast images of fires in the area targeted by the strikes.
Rami Abdel Rahman, Director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the missiles had targeted a weapons depot in Kissweh, “presumably belonging to Hezbollah”.
Abdel Rahman said the strike had killed at least nine pro-government fighters, “including members of the militiamen”, but it was not possible to independently confirm any toll.
Sana quoted a medical source saying that two civilians had died on a highway linking Damascus with the southern city of Deraa as a result of an explosion linked to “the Israeli aggression”, without providing details.
This is not the first time that the area in the southwest of Damascus has been targeted.
In December, Israel reportedly bombed military positions in Kissweh, including a weapons depot.
On Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “fully supports” the United States’ withdrawal from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran.
His statement came as the Israeli-occupied section of the Golan Heights was placed on high alert due to “irregular activity” across the demarcation line in Syria.
Meanwhile, at least four people were killed on Wednesday when shells fired by IS militants struck the centre of the Syrian capital, Damascus, state media and a monitoring group said.
Syria’s state-run Sana said that 24 people were also injured in the attack launched by “terrorists” in southern Damascus.
One shell fell on a bus in the city’s Maysat Square, killing two civilians, while the second hit the Damascus Tower building, claiming two more lives, according to Sana.
Rami Abdel Rahman said the Maysat neighbourhood is home to key Syrian army intelligence offices.
The shelling is the first to hit central Damascus since Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces retook control about a month ago of the Eastern Ghouta region, once a rebel stronghold.
Last month, Assad’s forces and allies started a massive offensive aimed at expelling IS and its allies from a pocket south of Damascus, including the sprawling refugee camp of Yarmouk.
Should government forces recapture the southern pocket, they would tighten their grip all over Damascus, Assad’s power base.
—Agencies