Syria says Israeli airstrike kills 4 civilians, wounds 21

Syrian state media say Israeli warplanes attacked military positions in central Syria, with a missile near Damascus killing four civilians and wounding 21.

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Israeli warplanes attacked military positions in central Syria early Monday, with a missile near Damascus killing four civilians and wounding 21, Syrian state media reported.

Israeli warplanes fired missiles from Lebanese airspace targeting military positions in the central province of Homs and suburbs of the capital, said Syrian state news agency SANA, adding that Syrian air defense forces opened fire toward the Israeli missiles.

SANA said the dead included a baby and that other children were among the wounded in the town of Sahnaya, southwest of Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked war monitor, said 15 people were killed in the airstrike, including six civilians and nine pro-government fighters. It said the dead fighters included one Syrian and the others were foreigners, most likely Iranians or members of Lebanon's Hezbollah group.

"The city shook in the middle of the night," a Damascus resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

For years, Israel has remained largely silent about its attacks against Iran and its Shiite proxies operating in neighboring Syria. But in recent months, military and political leaders have become increasingly outspoken about these activities. On June 12, Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian army position in the country's south.

The militant Palestinian group Hamas condemned what it called "blatant Israeli aggression" against Syria, calling Israel "the largest threat not only to the Palestinians, but to the whole region."

Hamas once operated from Syria, but fell out with President Bashar Assad and sided with the opposition when the country's crisis began in 2011. It closed its Damascus base a year later. In recent years, cash-strapped Hamas began efforts to restore ties with Syria and its Iranian allies.

Turkish Cypriot officials said Monday that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that missed its target was likely the cause of an explosion outside a village in the Mediterranean island nation's breakaway north. No injuries were reported.

Ersin Tatar, the north's prime minister, told a news conference that debris found near the village of Tashkent included pieces of a Russian-made S-200 missile.

Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said on his personal Facebook account that the missile could have been fired by an anti-aircraft battery that missed its target during the overnight airstrikes in Syria. Ozersay said the missile likely blew up in flight.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The country's internationally recognized government is seated in the Greek Cypriot south. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

The explosion was felt in the divided capital, Nicosia, several kilometers away.