DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Israeli warplanes fired several missiles toward central Syria early Friday, killing a family of four – including two children – and wounding four others, state media reported.
State-news agency SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying the attack took place shortly before dawn when Israeli warplanes flew over neighboring Lebanon.
The Israeli prime minister’s office on Friday declined to comment on the reports. Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years. But it rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
The Syrian military official said the attack was aimed at several targets in and near the central province of Hama. It added that Syrian air defense units shot down most of the missiles.
The official said the strike killed a family of four, consisting of a married couple and their two children. The strike also wounded four others, including two children, and destroyed three homes on the western edge of the provincial capital of Hama, SANA quoted the official as saying.
State TV said the family killed had been displaced by Syria’s nearly 10-year conflict.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor that tracks Syria’s war, said the strikes targeted five posts for Iran-backed fighters based within Syrian army positions.
It said the posts were destroyed adding that parts of one of the air defense missiles fell on a residential area causing the deaths and injuries among civilians.
It was Israel’s first strike on Syria since President Joe Biden took office.
Tension has been high in the Middle East in recent weeks around the anniversary of the U.S. killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
On Jan. 13, Israeli warplanes carried out intense airstrikes in eastern Syria, apparently targeting positions and arms depots of Iran-backed forces. At least 57 fighters were killed and dozens were wounded, according to a Syrian opposition war monitoring group.
The Observatory said it recorded 39 Israeli strikes inside Syria in 2020 that hit 135 targets, including military posts, warehouses or vehicles.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The strikes also come amid intensifying low-altitude Israeli warplane missions in Lebanese skies that have caused jitters among residents.
Mroue reported from Beirut.