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Hizbullah leader plays down Israeli strikes

18 May 2018
Satellite imagery showing an area of a Syrian military base northwest of Damascus on 5 May 2018 and 11 May 2018, during which time two large buildings that were constructed between September 2015 and April 2016 were destroyed. Source: © 2018 DigitalGlobe, Inc. / © 2018 IHS Markit

Key Points

  • Nasrallah claimed Israel suffered heavy damage in a 9 May rocket attack
  • Satellite imagery indicates the Israeli reprisals hit at least four targets in Syria, including two previously identified as Iranian bases

Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hizbullah that is fighting in Syria, confirmed that Israel was attacked with rockets on 9 May, but failed to acknowledge the damage caused in the reprisal strikes.

Nasrallah said in a speech on 14 May that 55 rockets were launched into Israeli-controlled territory, without saying who was responsible, according to a summary published by Hizbullah’s Al-Manar media outlet.

“The Israeli enemy kept silent on its losses as it tried to make light of the rockets that reached Safad and Tiberias [in northern Israel]. Massive explosions were heard in the occupied Golan and the Israelis in those settlements were forced to go to shelters,” he said. “The message was delivered to the Israeli enemy. It said that the era when you hit Syria without response is over.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Iranian Qods Force personnel in Syria launched approximately 20 rockets at its forward positions in the Golan Heights, some of which were intercepted by Iron Dome air defence systems, with the others causing no casualties. It said it responded with airstrikes against dozens of Iranian targets in Syria as well as Syrian air defence systems that attempted to engaged Israeli aircraft. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the IDF “hit nearly all Iranian infrastructure in Syria”.

Nasrallah acknowledged that counter-strikes had taken place, but praised Syrian air defences for mitigating the impact of what he described as limited Israeli attacks that were not intended to escalate the situation. He added that some of the targets had been evacuated because they had already been hit and denied reports that 23 Syrian military and allied personnel were killed.

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