Syrian air defence repels Israeli attack in south: State media

Air defence systems thwart Israeli air raid, state media reports, hours after blast rocks Damascus.

    The Syrian military has thwarted an Israeli attack, shooting down several missiles in the south of the country, state media and Russia's Ministry of Defense said.

    "Our air defence systems thwarted ... an Israeli air aggression ... and prevented it from achieving any of its goals," a military source told state news agency SANA on Sunday.

    Russia's Ministry of Defense said in a Twitter post that the Syrian military destroyed seven Israeli rockets near Damascus airport.

    It said no casualties were reported and the airport was not damaged.

    An Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

    Shortly after the incident, Israel's military said its Iron Dome missile defence system shot down a rocket that had been fired at the northern part of the occupied Golan Heights on the Syria frontier on Sunday.

    The military statement did not specify where the rocket had been launched from. The northern Golan is also close to Lebanese territory.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had acknowledged an Israeli attack last week on what he called an Iranian arms cache in Syria, where Tehran provides Damascus with vital support.

    He told his cabinet Israel had carried out "hundreds" of attacks over the past years of Syria's war to curtail Iran and its ally Lebanon's Hezbollah.

    Usually silent about its attacks on Iranian targets near its frontier, Israel has lifted the veil this month, a sign of confidence in a campaign waged amid occasional tensions with Russia, which is strongly behind Syria.

    Afrin bombing

    Earlier on Sunday, at least three civilians were killed after a bomb exploded near a bus stop in Afrin, in Syria's northwest. Seven others were wounded in the attack. 

    The attack came on the anniversary of a Turkish military operation that evicted Kurdish fighters from the town, which is now is under the control of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

    Also on Sunday, Syrian state TV reported a large explosion in a southern neighbourhood of the capital, Damascus.

    It said the morning blast, which happened during rush hour on the first working day of the week, appeared to have been "a terrorist act".

    The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP news agency that the explosion struck near a military intelligence office in Damascus.

    "The explosion took place near a security branch in the south of the city. There are some people killed and injured but we could not verify the toll immediately," the monitor said in a statement.

    It was unclear if the blast was caused by a bomb that was planted or a suicide attack, the monitor said, adding that shooting followed the explosion.

    Explosions have been rare in Damascus since pro-government forces captured the last remaining rebel-held neighbourhoods and suburbs near the capital last year.

    The Syrian conflict started as a largely unarmed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule in March 2011, but it has since escalated into a full-scale civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and left more than half of the country's prewar population displaced.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News