Israeli air strike kills two people in Damascus, official media says

Attack hit Kfar Souseh district, regarded as a centre of Iranian influence in Syria, where attacks have increased since Gaza war

A man checks the damage inside an apartment building that was hit in the Kfar Souseh district of Damascus. AFP
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An Israeli air strike on the outskirts of Damascus has killed two people, Syria's official media reported on Wednesday.

Syrian state television showed footage of a damaged 12-storey apartment block in the Kfar Souseh district of the Syrian capital.

The building appeared to have been hit by an explosion, with debris having fallen on to cars below.

Two people described as civilians were killed in the attack, according to a military official quoted by state television, who described it as an Israeli “aerial aggression with a number of missiles”.

Israel has not commented on the strike.

Kfar Souseh has been a key target of Israeli attacks on Damascus and surrounding areas since the war in Gaza began in October.

The district is part of what is known as “the security square” of Damascus. The area is regarded as a centre of Tehran's influence in Syria and believed to have a heavy Iranian presence.

It comprises areas near Umayyad Square, where President Bashar Al Assad has a home, and security compounds and other buildings where Iranian operatives are widely believed to be active.

The pro-government Sham FM reported that the missiles struck a building next to an Iranian school.

Last month, an Israeli strike on the nearby Mezzeh district killed five members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is in charge of Tehran's links with its militia allies.

The latest strike came hours after 10 people were reported wounded in attacks on Iran-backed militias in northern Syria. The attack was near the Abu Kamal border crossing with Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Militias allied with Tehran in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon have increased their attacks on Israeli and US targets since Hamas, a pro-Iranian militant group also linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, started the current war with Israel on October 7.

This has contributed to raising the temperature across the Middle East, which each side saying they do not want a regional war but with the situation on the ground becoming more violent.

Iran started increasing its military presence in Syria as the pro-democracy revolt of 2011 led to a civil war in the country, which dragged in regional and international powers in support of different parties.

Tehran and Moscow played a vital role in supporting Mr Al Assad and have retained an influential role in Syria since.

Iran-backed groups have also been accused of smuggling weapons into Syria that are capable of striking Israel.

Since around 2013, Israel has been carrying out air strikes to destroy that capability.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot acknowledged in 2019 that Israel had struck “thousands” of targets within Syria, dropping 2,000 bombs in 2018 alone.

Israel is already dealing with missile strikes on two fronts, from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah on its northern border in Lebanon, and has sought to limit attacks from a third front in Syria.

Aside from air strikes on Iran-linked figures, Israel's air campaign in Syria has struck civilian airports which it says have been used for smuggling Iranian arms, including those in Aleppo and Damascus.

Updated: February 21, 2024, 4:00 PM