Syrian government claims to have shot down Israeli missiles just days after President Biden launched military action

THE Syrian military tonight claimed it had shot down multiple Israeli missiles over its capital Damascus.

The incident comes just days after President Biden launched his first military strike by targeting Iran-backed fighters in the country.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out raids in the battle-scarred nation.

Historically it has mainly targeted Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as some government troops.

It has stepped up such strikes recently in what Western intelligence sources describe as a "shadow war" to reduce Iran's influence in the region.

They say Israel's latest strikes have undermined Iran's extensive military power base in Syria without triggering a major increase in hostilities. 

"At 10.16 this evening (8.16pm GMT) the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial attack from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan on targets in the Damascus area," the state news agency SANA reported a military source as saying.

"Our air defence confronted the missiles and downed most of them," the source reportedly added.

There was no immediate reports of any casualties and the Israeli army said it did not comment on reports in foreign media.

In a briefing to supporters of his party on Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Israel was taking action "almost weekly" to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Regional intelligence sources say Iran's Quds Force and militias it backs have a strong presence in a string of underground bases in the southern outskirts of Damascus.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assads government has never publicly acknowledged there are Iranian forces operating on his behalf in Syria's civil war, only that Tehran has sent military advisers.

On Thursday, the U.S. dropped seven 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions ( JDAMs) on a Syrian border crossing used by Iranian-backed militia groups to move weapons.

The U.S. appeared to be retaliating for a February 15 rocket attack on the American military base at Erbil International Airport – which was later claimed by the Guardians of Blood Brigade.

That attack, in a region run by Kurds, killed one contractor who was not American and injured numerous American contractors and an American service member.

Those who perished in Biden’s strike were killed as a weapons shipment crossed from Iraq to Syria, via a military crossing near Al-Qa’em crossing in Al-Bokamal area in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. 

The airstrike was the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, after repeated tensions between Iran and the Trump White House over the previous four years.

Israeli state broadcaster Kan had reported that leaders of Israel's security establishment met tonight to discuss an alleged Iranian attack on an Israeli-owned vessel in the Gulf of Oman in the week.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday he believed Iran was behind the explosion Thursday on the MV Helios Ray.

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