Israeli raid ‘targets’ military positions inside Syria

Syria’s air defenses intercepted missiles in Masyaf. (File/AP)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Israeli raid ‘targets’ military positions inside Syria

  • 17 Syrian troops were wounded in the attack, reports war monitor
  • Israel has in recent months acknowledged it has been striking Iranian targets in Syria

DAMASCUS: An Israeli airstrike on a military position in central Syria early Saturday wounded six soldiers and destroyed several buildings, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes hit three targets, wounding 17 Syrian soldiers. 

It said there were also deaths, but it was not immediately clear how many were killed and whether they were Iranians or Iran-sponsored fighters. 

The strikes targeted the Accounting School as well as a missile development center in a village near Masyaf and a nearby military base run by Iran-backed fighters, the monitor said.

SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying the airstrike near the town of Masyaf, in Hama province, hit a military academy widely known as the Accounting School. It said Israeli warplanes fired missiles toward Syria from Lebanon’s airspace and that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the missiles.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the foreign media report.

“Around 2:30 a.m. ... the Israeli air force carried out a strike targeting one of our military positions in the town of Misyaf,” in Hama province north of Damascus, SANA quoted a military source as saying.

Israel does not usually comment on reports concerning its airstrikes in neighboring Syria, though it has recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets there. The last such strikes that Israel announced were in late March.

“Our air defense batteries intercepted some of the Israeli missiles,” the source said, adding that the strike “wounded three combatants and destroyed buildings.”

The Observatory said the strike targeted a Syrian military college in the town and two buildings used by Iranian forces in nearby villages — a development center for medium-range missiles in Zawi and a training camp in Sheikh Ghadban. Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

With the support of the US administration of President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly to take whatever military action he deems necessary to prevent archfoe Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah establishing a continuing military presence.

Late last month, Trump broke with decades of international consensus to recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of the strategic Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The move was a diplomatic prize for Israel, but met with a chorus of opposition from US foes and allies alike.

Iran and Hezbollah have both intervened in Syria’s civil war, which erupted in 2011 to support forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

They were joined in 2015 by Russia, which supplied its S300 air defense system to Assad’s forces after a Russian aircraft was downed by mistake by Syrian defense systems during an Israeli raid on Sept. 17, killing all 15 people on board.

After several months of frosty relations, Russia and Israeli resumed coordination of their military operations in Syria and Israel’s bombing campaign picked up again.

Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has sent military advisers, as well as thousands of fighters from across the region, to help his forces in the eight-year conflict.

Israel considers Iran its biggest threat and has said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence on its borders.

The most serious wave of airstrikes on Syria this year occurred in January, when the Israeli military hit several Iranian targets, saying it was responding to an Iranian missile attack a day earlier. The Iranian launch followed a rare Israeli daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.


Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

Updated 48 min 30 sec ago
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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

  • Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister's reforms.
Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honour last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.
Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms. But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home.
His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Addis Ababa underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa's second-most populous nation.
In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar.
The attacks were led by Amhara's head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.
Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister's office. He had served nearly a decade in jail for a previous coup plot, but was released as part of an amnesty last year.
RISKS
Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.
Roads in the capital were blocked for the ceremony and security was tight. Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia for the third straight day, users reported.
The coffins of army chief of staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired general, both shot dead on Saturday by Seare's bodyguard in the national capital Addis Ababa, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.
Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses. Seare will be buried in his home region of Tigray on Wednesday.
At the memorial, the army's deputy chief of staff General Birhanu Jula spoke of the chief of staff's bravery in the guerrilla war against the Communist Derg regime that was toppled in 1991, and of his leadership role in Ethiopia's war against neighbouring Eritrea in the late 1990s.
The weekend killings came as Ethiopia prepares to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned this month that they were behind schedule and that instability could delay polling.
SECURITY FORCES
Ethiopia's ruling coalition, itself a grouping of ethnically-based parties, is facing an unprecedented challenge from strident ethno-nationalist parties, global think-tank Crisis Group said in a briefing note on Tuesday.
Asamnew, who allegedly orchestrated the killings, had been appointed by state authorities as regional security chief in an effort to claw back support from Amharas supporting more his more hardline policies, including expansion of Amhara's borders, the group said.
"The 22 June killings confirm the dangers in handing security portfolios to hardliners like Asamnew who are ready to pander to extreme ethno-nationalists, from whichever of Ethiopia’s ethnicities," the note read.
Ethiopia analysts say the prime minister must tread carefully to restore security. Too strong a response risks derailing his reforms and angering a polarised population. But failure to punish those responsible could see violence could spiral out of control.
Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent Ethiopian analyst, said the government should channel public anger through dialogue, but if ethnic rivalries spread to the federal armed forces, that could destroy the state, he said.