update deskMiddle East

Mystery blasts in Damascus ‘destroyed Iranian weapons depot’

The warehouse is said to have contained missiles intended for transfer to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

Explosions in Damascus destroy an arms depot belonging to Iranian-backed groups, Aug. 13, 2023. Credit: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Explosions in Damascus destroy an arms depot belonging to Iranian-backed groups, Aug. 13, 2023. Credit: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Unexplained “violent explosions” that rocked Damascus in the early hours of Sunday destroyed an arms depot belonging to Iranian-backed groups, according to U.K.-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Unconfirmed reports said the warehouse contained missiles intended for transfer to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

In the past, such incidents have been attributed to Israeli air strikes.

Last Monday, four soldiers were reported killed and four others wounded in an alleged Israeli missile strike near the Syrian capital.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency cited a military official as saying that the attack, which occurred at 2:20 a.m. and came from the direction of the Golan Heights, also caused some material damage.

On July 19, SANA reported that two soldiers had been wounded in Israeli strikes in the Damascus area.

In a rare interview which aired on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Sky News Arabia that Iran was only a pretext for Israel’s strikes in Syria.

“The truth is that the Syrian army is mainly targeted under the title of the Iranian presence,” he said, adding that the strikes “will continue as long as Israel is an enemy” according to a translation of the interview provided by SANA.

The Syrian dictator went on to state that the Israeli attacks were designed to support terror groups fighting against the regime.

The strikes “will continue as long as we are able to thwart the terrorists’ plans, even partially, because these strikes began when the Syrian army began to achieve victories in the battles it is engaged in, and we take into account that we have not finished from the war yet,” he said.

Israel has reportedly struck hundreds of targets in Syria in recent years as part of an effort to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in the country. However, it rarely acknowledges these incidents.

On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah “not to make a mistake.”

Gallant toured the Mount Dov region with Israel Defense Forces Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin and other senior officers, where he was updated on “defensive efforts being made along the border and the progress of the construction of the barrier,” his office said.

“If … an escalation or conflict develops here, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age. We will not hesitate to use all our power, and erode every inch of Hezbollah and Lebanon if we have to,” Gallant said.

“Don’t mistake us: We don’t want war but we are ready to protect our citizens, our soldiers, and our sovereignty,” he added.

Armed Hezbollah terrorists were recently spotted patrolling the border between Lebanon and Israel in clear violation of a legally binding U.N. resolution, the IDF revealed late last month.

The military noted the Hezbollah operatives did not cross the Blue Line, a U.N.-recognized delineation marking Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and were kept under strict surveillance the entire time.

The armed patrol was the latest in a series of provocations along the Jewish state’s northern frontier, most of them instigated by Hezbollah, which have raised tensions in recent months.

Last month, the IDF foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to damage the border fence. Gallant said that Israeli troops “deterred Hezbollah activists with non-lethal means and will continue to guard the security of the State of Israel.”

In early April, Hezbollah pitched two tents a few meters on the Israeli side of the Blue Line. The position, located across from an IDF post, was reportedly manned by three to eight armed terrorists.

On March 15, a terrorist who infiltrated from Lebanon planted a roadside bomb in northern Israel that severely wounded a motorist. Shareef ad-Din, 21, from the Israeli Arab town of Salem, was wounded when the explosive device detonated behind a road barrier near the Megiddo Junction, some 18 miles southeast of Haifa.

Separately on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights Observation Point.

“It is pleasant to be here in the sunshine and see the wonderful development of the Golan Heights, which we all have worked on… and really to know that we are walking on land that will be under Israeli sovereignty forever,” said Netanyahu.

“This was not self-evident a few decades ago when I served [in the military] here. Today it is understood by everyone—and this is important,” he added.

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