Updated at 12.15pm
ISRAELI STRIKES ON several areas of Syria overnight killed at least 23 fighters, including five Syrian regime troops and 18 other allied forces, a monitor said today.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an officer was among the regime troops killed in the strikes and that the casualties included foreigners.
Israel’s army said it hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria.
The Russian defence ministry, whose country has forces in Syria supporting the regime, said 28 Israeli warplanes took part in the raids and around 70 missiles were fired.
Areas near Damascus and in the southwest of Syria were among the targets, the Observatory said.
The strikes “caused human losses in a number of the targeted areas”, it said, adding the death toll was likely to rise.
Israel said it targeted Syrian positions after rocket fire towards its forces in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that it blamed on Iran.
A senior military pro-regime source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, but insisted Israel fired first.
“We know that comes from the al-Quds force,” army spokesman lieutenant-colonel Jonathan Conricus said, referring to the special forces unit affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The Israeli army takes very seriously this Iranian attack against Israel.
In the early hours of the morning, explosions were heard in Damascus, while live images were broadcast on television showing projectiles above the Syrian capital and several missiles destroyed by Syrian anti-aircraft systems.
Syrian state media reported that Israeli missile strikes hit military bases as well as an arms depot and a military radar installation, without specifying the location.
The official SANA news agency added that “dozens of missiles were shot down by anti-aircraft systems in Syrian airspace”, saying a number of missiles had reached their targets.
Israel’s military later confirmed it had carried out the raids, saying dozens of Iranian military targets had been struck and all of its aircraft had returned safely.
Since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Israel has repeatedly targeted positions of the Syrian army and Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah backing it inside the country.