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Suspected Israeli strikes in Syria amid escalation with Hezbollah in Lebanon

A Hezbollah commander in Lebanon was injured in an Israeli strike as foreign diplomats worked to de-escalate tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border.
Smoke billows from an Israeli airstrike as flares fall on the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, near the border with Israel, Jan. 19, 2024.

Syria reported a drone attack near Damascus on Friday following suspected Israeli strikes earlier in the week and amid clashes between Israel and Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon, as diplomatic efforts appear to have ramped up to bring calm to the situation.

Syrian air defenses shot down two drones in an unspecified area west of Damascus around 2:10 p.m. local time (6:10 a.m. EST), reported SANA, Syria's official news outlet. The outlet did not report any damage or casualties.

The Syrian government typically blames Israel for such strikes, but SANA did not explicitly mention Israel in its report, stating only that the drones had entered Syrian airspace via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that missiles hit near the Mezzeh military airport west of Damascus. Shrapnel from a Syrian air defense missile also hit a home in Sayyidah Zaynab, south of Damascus, according to the observatory, which likewise did not attribute the strike to Israel. Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups are active in the area. 

Israel is suspected of carrying out regular strikes against Syrian, Iranian and allied military targets throughout Syria, but it typically does not confirm such operations.

Similar attacks took place earlier in the week. On Wednesday, SANA reported that a “number of civilians” were killed in Israeli airstrikes in the central city of Homs. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 11 people killed — seven civilians and four members of Iran-backed militia groups.

Meanwhile, Israel and Hezbollah continued their low-intensity conflict along the southern border of Lebanon. On Thursday, an Israeli drone strike on a vehicle in the Lebanese city of Nabatieh seriously injured a Hezbollah commander, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hezbollah said in a series of statements on Friday that it had struck Israeli military targets near the Israel-Lebanon border, including the Doviv military barracks and the disputed Shebaa Farms area.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Avichay Adraee said in a Friday post on X that Israeli fighter jets had struck Hezbollah military sites in Maroun El Ras, Naqoura and other parts of southern Lebanon.

Earlier on Friday, Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported Israeli strikes in different areas of southern Lebanon, including near Nabatieh. Adraee said a launch had been intercepted off the coast of Haifa.

Why it matters: The continued clashes between Israel and Hezbollah come amid efforts to tamp down the situation in the border region with Lebanon. The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that European diplomats have put forward various proposals, including a scenario in which Hezbollah pulls back from the border area and more Lebanese military troops are deployed to the south.

The international community is concerned about a full-on war erupting between Israel and Hezbollah as the Hamas-Israel conflict continues in Gaza.

Know more: Also on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited Beirut for talks with unspecified Lebanese officials. It is the diplomat’s third trip to Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.