Illustration: iStock
Illustration: iStock

Syrian air defenses opened fire on “hostile aerial targets” near Damascus airport, state media reported on Sunday evening.

“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency reported, without elaborating.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group,  said explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.

The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.

The Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.

Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war, which has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.

The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israeli air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.

Moscow blamed Israel for the downing of the aircraft, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel has disputed.

Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.

The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch-foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse