According to witnesses and officials, an Israeli rocket strike on a building in central Damascus early Sunday killed five people and damaged several buildings in the densely populated district.
According to two intelligence sources, the strike occurred near a security complex where Syria’s ally Iran has bases.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military declined to comment.
According to state media, Israel carried out airstrikes targeting several areas of Damascus shortly after midnight, resulting in five civilian deaths and 15 injuries.
“It caused material damage to several civilian homes and several neighbourhoods in Damascus and its surroundings,” the Syrian army said in a statement.
Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said the strike should be considered a “crime against humanity” given it took place less than two weeks after the Feb. 6 earthquake that left more than 5,800 dead across the country.
It was not immediately clear whether the Israeli strike was aimed at a specific individual, but two Western intelligence sources said the target was a logistics centre in the building run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iran and Russia both helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide of the country’s civil war in his favour with military and economic support. Tehran and Moscow both condemned the strikes and said they threatened regional stability.
Edmond Ajji from Syria’s antiquities directorate told Reuters the capital’s historic citadel had suffered some damage in the incident.
But two Syrian military sources, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said stray anti-aircraft rockets fired in response to the missiles hit the vicinity of the citadel.
Pro-Iran Hezbollah’s top commander Imad Moughniyeh was killed in 2008 in a bombing in the same neigbourhood, Kafr Sousa, a heavily policed area where residents say several Iranian security agencies are located, including a cultural centre.
Although officials rarely acknowledge responsibility for specific operations, Israel has been carrying out air strikes against suspected Iranian-sponsored weapons transfers and personnel deployments in Syria for almost a decade.
Israel has also in recent months intensified strikes on Syrian airports and air bases to disrupt Iran’s increasing use of aerial supply lines to deliver arms to allies in Syria and Lebanon, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The strikes are part of an escalation of what has been a low-intensity conflict whose goal was to slow down Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria, Israeli military experts say.
Iran’s proxy militias, led by Hezbollah, now hold sway in vast areas in eastern, southern, and northwestern Syria and several suburbs around the capital.
Assad has never publicly acknowledged that Iranian forces operate on his behalf in Syria’s civil war, saying Tehran has only military advisers on the ground.