Israel carried out its second air strike in days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source said, in an attack that shook Damascus with a series of powerful blasts and drove columns of fire into the night sky.
Israel declined to comment, but
Syria accused the Jewish state of carrying out a raid on a military facility just north of the capital.
explosions came soon after an Israeli official confirmed his country had
carried out an air strike earlier in the week targeting missiles in
Syria intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
target of Sunday's attack, according to Syrian media, was the same
Jamraya military research center which was hit by Israel in another
assault in January. Jamraya, on the northern approaches to Damascus, is
just 15 km (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.
President Assad on 4 May visited Damascus University for the inauguration of a statue dedicated to the 'martyrs of Syrian universities'. It was his second public appearance in a week. He was greeted warmly by a large number of supporters.
Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by activists showed a series of
explosions. One lit up the skyline over the city, while another sent up a
tower of flames and secondary blasts.
Western intelligence source told Reuters Israel carried out the attack
and the operation hit Iranian-supplied missiles which were en route to
Hezbollah. "In last night's attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah," the source said.
British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saidthe blasts hit Jamraya as well as a nearby ammunition
depot. Other activists said a missile brigade and two Republican Guard
battalions may also have been targeted in the heavily militarized area
just north of Damascus.
state television said the strikes were a response to recent military
gains by President Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebels. "The new
Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups
which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army," it said.
Rubin, an Israeli missile expert and former defense official said the
Fateh-110 missile "is better than the Scud, it has a half-ton warhead".
Iran has said it adapted the missile for anti-ship use by installing a
guidance system, he added.