Syrian state media said on Wednesday that missiles fired from Israeli warplanes were shot down over Damascus. The Syrian claim came even as Israeli military said it targeted dozens of targets inside Syria. including in capital Damascus. Israel said the missile strike was in reprisal of the rocket attacks targeting Israel on Tuesday.

"At 1:20 am (2320 GMT) on Wednesday, Israeli warplanes... targeted the vicinity of the city of Damascus with a number of missiles ... Our air defence confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles, and was able to destroy most of them before reaching their targets," Syrian state news agency SANA said.

The missiles were fired by Israeli jets from Golan Heights and Marj al-Ayoun, Reuters reported, citing SANA. Russia's Sputnik News also said the missiles were fired from the direction of the Lebanese-Syrian border region of the Golan Heights. The report also endorsed SANA report that Syrian air defence systems thwarted most of the missiles.

Palestine Islamic Jihad leaders targeted

Earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rockets were fired into Israel from positions around Damascus that are controlled by troops loyal to embattled President Bashar al Assad. An Israeli airstrike in the Syrian capital Damascus had killed a top commander of the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) last week. Following the targeted attacks that killed the PIJ leader, Hamas intensified shelling in Israel. Several Israelis including children were injured and Houses were damaged in the Hamas shelling.

People walk past a damaged site after an airstrike in the besieged rebel-held town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria
Damascus, SyriaPeople walk past a damaged site after an airstrike in the besieged rebel-held town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh Reuters

Israeli Defence Forces said in a tweet it carried out "wide-scale strikes of Iranian Quds Force & Syrian Armed Forces targets in Syria." IDF said the attacks were in response to the rockets fired at Israel by an Iranian force in Syria on Tuesday "During our strike of Iranian & Syrian terror targets, a Syrian air defense missile was fired despite clear warnings to refrain from such fire. As a result, a number of Syrian aerial defense batteries were destroyed," IDF added. Israel also said that four rockets launched from Syria were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements in West Bank illegal

The escalation in conflict came immediately after the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements in West Bank illegal. The announcement was a major reversal of the US stand on Jewish settlements in Palestine. The abandoning of the 40-year-old policy was welcomed in Israel and condemned by Palestinians. The US had earlier held that building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank was "inconsistent with international law."

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war and has been gradually building Jewish settlements there as well as East Jerusalem ever since. Currently some 600,000 Jews live in as many as 140 settlements in this region. The growing Jewish Israeli population has always posed a threat for Palestinians as this would make the formation of a Palestinian nation ever more difficult and unlikely.