- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Syrian army claimed Tuesday that Israeli fighter jets and rockets targeted positions inside the war-torn nation overnight, marking a potential uptick in tensions between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants operating there.

While Israeli officials declined to comment, Reuters reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said Tuesday that Israel’s policy is to prevent Hezbollah from moving “game-changing weapons” out of Syria.

“We back [the policy] up as necessary with action,” Mr. Netanyahu said in response to a reporter’s question about the Syrian army’s claim, although he did not explicitly confirm that Israel had carried out the overnight strikes.

Agence France-Presse noted Tuesday that Israel’s army has carried out several strikes against the Syrian army and its ally, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

Israel has long accused Iran, its main enemy, of taking advantage of the war to advance Iranian troops and Hezbollah into southern Syria, close to the Israeli border. The Israelis are believed to have carried out strikes last month, as well as in September.

Tuesday’s statement by the Syrian army claimed Syria’s air defenses had succeed in neutralizing at least one rocket and had “hit one” of Israel’s planes.

The statement claimed the strikes targeted the Qutayfeh area northeast of Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the Israelis were targeting Syrian army and Hezbollah weapon depots, according to AFP.

The strikes sparked “successive explosions and fires, causing material damage” in the depots, where land-to-land missiles have been stored among other weapons, the Observatory said.

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