DEBKAfile Special Report May 5, 2013, 2:44 PM (IDT)
Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Sunday, May 5, that the strike at Syria overnight represented a “declaration of war” by Israel.
Russian and Iranian media earlier predicted full-scale Middle East hostilities involving Israel erupting in the coming hours, in the wake of Israel’s renewed strikes against Iranian missiles bound for Hizballah and other targets around Damascus. Russian sources reported rumors that President Bashar Assad was on the point of declaring war on Israel.
Russia Today claimed that an Israeli rocket strike Sunday caused heavy Syrian casualties – according to rumors, at least 300 members of the Syrian Army’s 501st Unit dead and hundreds filling four Damascus hospitals. DEBKAfile: If this is confirmed, then the unit which operates the chemical weapon facility at the Barzeh district north of Damascus at the foot of Mt. Qassioun was hit. Israel’s security cabinet holds emergency session.
The same Russian source reported that Syrian security forces cordoned off the sites of the explosions against entry. Residents reported after the blasts that the ground moved with the force of a 4 magnitude earthquake.
Shortly after the Israel attacks in the Damascus area Sunday, the IDF posted additional Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in Haifa and Safed to defend those northern towns against incoming Syrian and Hizballah rockets.
Low-ranking Syrian and Iranian officials responded to the Israeli attacks on Syria: Deputy Information minister His Al-Yiftah commented by saying that “a new foreign element had entered the Syrian conflict overnight and this would cause war.”
In Tehran, an Iranian foreign ministry official condemned “Israeli aggression on Syria and accused Israel of fomenting instability and ethnic discord in the region. The commander of the ground forces asked if the war was not about to burst out of Syria’s borders, without answering the question.
An Israeli official confirmed to AFP that Israeli had Sunday conducted a second round of strikes in three days on advanced weapons including Iranian F-110 weapons bound for Hizballah in transit at Damascus international airport. Syrian TV reported only an attack on the Jamraya military research center just north of Damascus. This was the same facility which Israeli planes attacked in January.