Israel hit the headquarters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother during a recent wave of strikes on the war-torn country, Arab and Hebrew media reported.
The strikes, which took place on April 9, were a response to two salvos of rockets which were launched from southern Syria at the Israeli-occupied Golan heights in the early morning and late on the prior day, April 8. No side claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, which didn’t result in any losses. However, Tel Aviv held the Syrian government responsible.
Israel fighter jets, combat drones and artillery hit targets in the southern governorates of Daraa and al-Qunitra as well as in the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said that Israeli strikes caused material damage, without providing any details. There were no reports of casualties.
In a statement released after the strikes, the Israeli Defense Forces said that one of the targets was a compound of the Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Division. The brother of the Syrian president, Major General Maher al-Assad, is the de-facto commander of the elite military unit.
A satellite image released by the United States-based Planet Labs on April 10 showed large damage at the main entrance of the 4th Division headquarters near Damascus, confirming that it was the hit.
— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) April 10, 2023
Israel’s Channel 13 said that Maj. Gen. Maher al-Assad was not implicated in the rocket attack on the al-Golan Heights. However, the bombing of his headquarters was meant to send a message that the Israeli attack was not solely in retaliation to the rocket fire, but also a response to a drone launched from Syria approximately on April 2.
The rare rocket fire from southern Syria came following similar attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon. The attacks were carried out by Iran-aligned Palestinian armed factions in response to the April 5 Israeli Police assault on al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem city, during which hundreds of Palestinians worshippers were arrested.
Israel launched hundreds of strikes against Syria over the past decade. However, it refrained from targeting senior Syrian officials. Tel Aviv alleges that its military campaign against the country, which is known as the war between wars, is only meant to prevent Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from establishing a lasting presence there.
The attack on the headquarters of the 4th Division is a major escalation by Israel that could force Syria to retaliate, directly or indirectly.