DAMASCUS, Syria – A string of powerful blasts from the direction of a military airport in Damascus lit up the skies and shook the capital city in the early morning hours on Sunday, residents and state TV reported.
The explosions were seen and heard coming from the direction of the Mezzeh airport, southwest of the capital. The airport has been targeted in a number of airstrikes in recent years that the government has blamed on Israel.
The state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV station showed what appeared to be hand-held footage shot by residents of the capital capturing a string of bright explosions lighting up the night sky.
The TV station reported, citing an unnamed military source, that the explosions did not come from inside the airport but from a nearby munitions depot. The station said an electrical short circuit was to blame, and reported that emergency services were at the scene.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the explosions came from inside the Mezzeh air base and said they were likely caused by an Israeli missile strike.
Israel rarely acknowledges strikes inside Syria but has said it would use military action to prevent weapons transfers to its enemies. Israel is alarmed by the the expansion of operations by Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to support President Bashar Assad in Syria's seven-year-long civil war.
The blasts come at a tense moment, as Syrian government forces prepare to attack the last refuge of the opposition in the northwest of the country. The U.S. is warning Damascus against using chemical weapons in the battle, while Damascus alleges that the U.S. is preparing to falsify a chemical attack to justify military operations on Syria.
The U.S., France, and the U.K. struck military installations around Damascus in April this year after a chlorine gas attack against rebels under siege outside the capital.