BEIRUT (AP) – Israeli jets flew little over parts of Lebanon early in the wee hours of Friday, terrifying residents on Christmas Eve, some of whom reported seeing missiles in the sky above Beirut.
Minutes later, Syria’s official news agency reported the explosion in the central Syrian city of Massif. Other Syrian media said Syrian airstrikes responded to an Israeli attack near the city in Hama province.
The Syrian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that Israel “launched an aggression by directing a barrage of rockets” from the north of the city of Tripoli, Lebanon, towards the Musaif region. It said that Syrian air defense “encountered enemy missiles and intercepted most of them.”
There was no immediate word on what the target was or whether any casualties occurred.
Israeli jets routinely breach Lebanese airspace and have often been hit from inside Lebanese territory inside Syria. But the Christmas Eve flights were more vigorous than usual for the beleaguered residents of Beirut, which have endured several crises over the past year, including an August 4 explosion at the city’s port that killed 200 people and parts of the capital Destroyed. The explosion was caused by the explosion of a stockpile of ammonium nitrates that was improperly stored at the facility.
There was no immediate word from Israel in Friday’s flights and alleged attacks on Syria.
Over the years, Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes in Syria, most of which were believed to be aimed at Hezbollah for the purpose of suspected Iranian arms shipments. In recent months, Israeli authorities have expressed concern that Hezbollah is trying to set up production facilities to produce precision guided missiles.
Massif is an important military area for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, which includes a military academy and a scientific research center. Israel has targeted there many times in the past.