Car bombing rocks Syria capital Damascus, state media says

A car bombing rocked the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday afternoon, state media said, with no deaths reported and no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

“An explosive device was detonated in a civilian car, setting it on fire without causing any casualties,” state news agency SANA said, citing a police source. The agency did not blame Israel. Syrian state media have generally been quick to attribute airstrikes in the country to Israel and have done so repeatedly in recent weeks.

Syria’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday that “two people were slightly injured” in the explosion that targeted a pickup truck, adding that “investigations are underway”.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the rare car bombing attack in the Syrian capital, or who the target was.

The attack took place in an area where the United Nations headquarters, several embassies and restaurants are located, according to an AFP correspondent in Damascus.

On February 27, a Syrian official working “on weapons development” was killed in a car bombing in rural Damascus, according to war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Sunday’s bombing attack comes amid increased airstrikes against Israel in Syria in recent days and heightened tensions between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s presence on Israel’s northern border.

The bombing also came hours after Israeli Air Force combat helicopters and planes shot down an unidentified aircraft that appeared to have entered Israeli airspace into Syria on Sunday, according to the military.

The military tracked down the unidentified aircraft and “took it down over an open area,” without threatening residents of the area, the IDF said in a statement.

Hebrew media said the military believes the aircraft is of Iranian origin.

Earlier on Sunday, Iran said a second member of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died of injuries sustained in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria early Friday. An adviser from the IRGC was also killed in the strike on Friday.

Late Saturday, SANA said that Israeli jets carried out airstrikes on several targets near the city of Homs, injuring five soldiers. Western intelligence sources told Reuters that Saturday’s strikes hit a series of air bases in central Syria where Iranian personnel are based.

An Israeli intelligence and imagery firm, ImageSat International, published images it said showed damage to the Syrian military airport at al-Dabaa near Homs in the alleged airstrike after midnight on Saturday. ImageSat said the airstrike likely targeted Iran-backed Hezbollah drone activity, destroying an aircraft shed, a UAV communications station and a communications vehicle.

Several Israeli media outlets on Sunday reported unconfirmed assessments that the string of airstrikes in Syria – three out of four consecutive nights – could be linked to last month’s suspected Hezbollah bombing near Megiddo in northern Israel, which Jerusalem is believed to have been made by terrorists who crossed the Lebanese border fence using a ladder. One man was seriously injured in the attack.

Although many details of the Megiddo bombing investigation are under a publication ban, Haaretz cited speculation that the series of airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria could indicate IRGC involvement in the latest security incidents.

As a general rule, the Israeli military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but they have admitted that they have carried out hundreds of sorties over the past decade against Iranian-backed groups trying to gain a foothold in the country.

The IDF says it also attacks weapons shipments believed to be bound for those groups, including Hezbollah. In addition, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

The latest alleged airstrikes followed two attacks in recent weeks against Aleppo International Airport, which have also been blamed on Israel. The attacks temporarily closed the airport’s runway. Also this month, Israel carried out a rare daytime strike against targets in northwestern Syria, injuring three soldiers and causing damage, Syria’s SANA news agency said.

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