Explosions rock weapons warehouse on base in central Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Explosions rocked a Syrian military base housing a weapons warehouse yesterday in the country’s central Homs province, and a local official said the cause was not immediately clear.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria war, said an Israeli rocket attack was suspected. It said the weapons warehouse, south of the city of Homs, is for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group, which has backed Syria’s armed forces in the nine-year civil war.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the reports. But it has in the past targetted Iranian and Iranian-backed targets inside Syria, saying it won’t tolerate Tehran’s increasing influence along its borders.

In the past month, there have been several reports of suspected Israeli strikes on targets inside Syria, the last on Monday.

Yesterday’s explosions wounded 10 civilians walking nearby, Homs health director Hassan al-Guindi told local Syrian media. Smoke columns could be seen from a distance and the sound of explosions echoed into Homs city.

Governor Talal Barazi said it wasn’t clear what caused the explosions. He said the military base includes a weapons warehouse but didn’t name Hezbollah. The Observatory said the base has been used by the Lebanese militant group for years. It said the explosions caused damage to the base and reported flying debris that reached outside its perimeters.

Syrian state media also reported late on Thursday that Israeli helicopters flying over the occupied Golan Heights fired at several unidentified targets causing material damage.

Israel has acknowledged carrying out scores of strikes over the years, most aimed at alleged Iranian weapons shipments believed to be bound for Hezbollah. In recent months, Israeli officials have expressed concern that Hezbollah is trying to establish production facilities to make precision-guided missiles.

In recent weeks, suspected Israeli attacks include the targeting of Iranian-backed fighters in the desert near the central Syrian town of Palmyra, and an Israeli drone attack on a SUV carrying Hezbollah members close to the border with Lebanon.