Attributed in Syria to Israel, the strike appeared to be the latest episode of a long-running conflict between Israel and Iranian proxies.
JERUSALEM — At least five people were killed early Sunday morning during missile strikes on Damascus, the Syrian state news agency said, in what appeared to be the latest salvo in a yearslong shadow war between Israel, Iran and Iranian proxies like Syria.
The Syrian news agency, SANA, attributed the attack to Israel and said the missiles came from the direction of the Golan Heights, an area Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed. A spokesman for the Israeli Army declined to comment, but Israel has acknowledged hundreds of past attacks on Iran-linked targets in Syria.
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Iran and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, its ally, have increased their military support for Syria’s authoritarian president, Bashar al-Assad. In an effort to limit the influence and military buildup of these forces, and their potential threat to its northern border, Israel regularly strikes government-controlled areas in Syria.
The strikes early Sunday were believed to be targeting Iranians near a site used by the Iranian military, according to a senior Western diplomat briefed on the episode. Israeli news outlets, citing unnamed sources, said some of the damage, in a residential area called Kafr Sousa, may have been caused by a misfired Syrian air-defense missile.
There were no confirmed reports of Iranian deaths, though senior Iranian officials had been photographed recently in northern Syria visiting areas affected by the major earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6.
Deadly Quake in Turkey and Syria
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 6, with its epicenter in Gaziantep, Turkey, has become one of the deadliest natural disasters of the century.
- Near the Epicenter: Amid scenes of utter devastation in the ancient Turkish city of Antakya, thousands are trying to make sense of an earthquake that left them with no home and no future.
- A Flawed Design: Residents of a new upscale tower in Turkey were told it was earthquake resistant, but the building collapsed anyway. A close look offers clues as to why.
- Miraculous Rescues: Two brothers who rationed protein powder while trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building for about 200 hours were among those rescued in Turkey a week after the quake.
- In Erzin: The small Turkish city survived the quake with no casualties and little damage. The mayor credited his enforcement of building standards, but scientists say it is more likely about geology.
Israeli airstrikes on Syria are one part of a wider, largely clandestine conflict between Iran and Israel that also takes place at sea, online and in Iran itself, where Israel has repeatedly tried to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, which it fears it will one day be the target of.
An Israeli cabinet minister, Amichai Chikli, praised the strikes on Sunday and framed them as part of that general conflict with Iran, while avoiding a direct claim of Israeli involvement.
“It is excellent that the strikes — against the elements that are trying to entrench themselves inside Syria — continue,” said Mr. Chikli, Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs. “Anyone who takes part in the battle against the Iranian coalition should be praised.”
The strikes on Sunday occurred two days after a drone attack, attributed in Israel to Iran, damaged a private Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Persian Gulf, the latest in a long sequence of similar assaults.
According to the Syrian state news agency, Sunday’s attack took place shortly after midnight, when missiles struck Damascus and surrounding areas, including residential neighborhoods. Photographs published by the agency showed substantial damage to an apartment building and a car.
Syrian air-defense systems intercepted some of the missiles, but others hit the city, killing at least five people, including a soldier, and injuring 15, the agency said. Other sources reported a higher death toll: The Syrian Human Rights Observatory, an opposition-aligned group based in Britain that monitors violence in Syria, said that 15 people had died.
The strikes were the first documented since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and northern Syria nearly two weeks ago, killing more than 40,000 people, including more than 5,000 in Syria.
Damascus, in southern Syria, did not experience major damage in the earthquake.
But its residents have witnessed significant bloodshed and hardship since 2011, when anti-government protests evolved into a full-scale war that continues today and has left large parts of northern Syria under rebel control.
The last documented attack on Damascus was on Jan. 2, when the Syrian Army reported that Israel’s military had fired missiles toward the city’s international airport, killing two soldiers, wounding two others and putting the airport out of service.
A subsequent strike on Jan. 28 in eastern Syria, close to the Syrian-Iraqi border, killed at least 10 people in a convoy carrying arms to Iranian proxies, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory.
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.