DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) — A series of massive explosions illuminated the predawn sky in Damascus, prompting more claims that Israel has launched attacks into the war-torn country.
Syria accused Israel of firing rockets into the Damascus suburb of Jamraya early Sunday, striking a scientific research center, Syrian state-run TV reported. The report claimed the rocket attack on the research center aided rebels, who have been battling government forces in the region.
The Israeli military would not confirm or deny the Syrian TV claim that Israel had launched rockets.
“We do not comment on these reports at all,” an Israeli military spokesperson said
The report comes shortly after U.S. officials first told CNN that the United States believes Israel carried out an airstrike against Syria. Two U.S. officials told CNN on Friday that Israel apparently conducted an airstrike into Syria on Thursday or Friday. Based on initial indications, the United States does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strike.
Syria: Israel has targeted the defense facility before
Sunday’s report is the second claim by Syria this year of a strike against a government defense research facility,
In January, reports surfaced that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jamraya research facility. The Syrian government has said that airstrike killed two workers and injured five others.
A U.S. official told CNN at the time the Syrian claims were false. The official said Israeli fighter jets targeted a Syrian government convoy carrying surface-to-air missiles bound for the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. But Syria denied there were such shipments.
Lebanon reports Israeli warplanes overhead
Claims of Israeli foreign presence was not limited to Syria; the Lebanese army said Israel flew warplanes over Lebanon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Lebanese President Gen. Michel Sleiman condemned the violations as “an attempt to shaken Lebanese stability,” the state-run National News Agency reported Saturday.
The Israeli military had no comment. But an Israeli defense source told CNN’s Sara Sidner, “We will do whatever is necessary to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. We have done it in the past, and we will do it if necessary the future.”
Sectarian violence continues
The latest report of rocket attacks comes as sectarian violence erupted in northwestern Syria. Three consecutive days of killing by mostly Alawite forces have left hundreds of predominantly Sunni residents dead, opposition groups said Saturday.
State media have said their forces were seeking only to clear the area of “terrorists,” the term they have routinely used when referring to rebel forces.
But the U.S. State Department said it was “appalled by horrific reports that more than 100 people were killed May 2” in Beyda, a suburb of Baniyas.
Several opposition groups said largely Alawite regime forces used tanks, battleships and missile launchers to target largely Sunni neighborhoods in and around the coastal city of Baniyas.
Government forces killed at least 200 people on Friday and Saturday in Baniyas and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said Saturday.
But reliable information has been difficult to obtain because government forces controlled access to the village, the LCC said.
A graphic video posted by activists who said it was shot in the Ras al-Nabaa neighborhood showed people, including an infant, lying lifeless on the ground. Many bore what appeared to be bullet wounds, and some appeared burned. CNN has not been able to confirm the video’s authenticity, as access to Syrian war zones has been severely limited by the government.
State-run Syrian TV reported that government troops and the National Defense militia — an armed Alawite group loyal to the government, “have cleaned the area from armed terrorists” after “they burned civilians’ homes and terrorized the population.” The report was supported by interviews with members of the Syrian army.
U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters on Friday that he did not foresee a scenario of “American boots on the ground in Syria” that would be good for that country or the region. Obama said other leaders in the region want to see al-Assad out of power.