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More than 20 reported dead in multiple Israeli air strikes on Syria

UK-based activist group says 16 fighters died during the attacks, while Syria says two civilians were killed
A woman receives medical care at a clinic in Damascus after she was reportedly injured during the Israeli air strikes (SANA/AFP)

More than 20 people are reported to have been killed in Israeli air strikes in Syria early on Wednesday.

A UK-based activist group said 23 people, including 16 Iranian and Iran-backed fighters, five Syrian troops and two Syrian civilians. Syrian state media said two civilians were killed and a number of people injured.

Israel said its aircraft had struck dozens of Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria in retaliation for rockets fired towards Israel a day earlier.

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Syria's state news agency SANA said the country's air defences destroyed most of the missiles fired by Israeli jets over the capital Damascus before they reached their targets.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the air strikes were a wrong move, and Moscow had contacted its allies about the incident, Interfax reported.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strikes targeted arms depots belonging to Iran’s elite Quds Force in the Damascus suburbs of Kisweh and Qudsaya.

The Observatory said that several other areas were targeted, including the Mazzeh airbase in western Damascus where air defence units are stationed.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, told the AFP news agency that four civilians were also wounded in the strikes.

Israel's military said its missile defence system shot down four rockets fired from Syria towards Israel on Tuesday.

'Whoever hurts us, we will hurt him'

"I have made clear that whoever hurts us, we will hurt him," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said early on Wednesday.

"This is what we did overnight vis-a-vis military targets of the Iranian Al Quds force and Syrian military targets in Syria after a barrage of rockets was launched at Israel," he said.

The elite Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC).

On Twitter, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Avichay Adraee said warplanes attacked dozens of targets, including surface-to-air missiles, headquarters, weapons depots and military bases.

Israel says it has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against Iranian targets trying to establish a permanent military presence there and against advanced weapons shipments to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"Yesterday's Iranian attack on Israeli territory by firing missiles ... is the best proof of Iran's real cause in Syria. The Iranian position poses a threat to Israel's security, stability in the region, and the Syrian regime," Adraee said.