JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes late Tuesday fired missiles at an area west of the Syrian capital Damascus, Syrian state media reported, striking an arms depot and injuring three soldiers, the agency said.

Israel, which rarely acknowledges its military strikes in Syria, did not immediately confirm the raid. The military said Tuesday only that one of its aerial defense systems was activated “in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria.”

Officials have repeatedly said that Israel will act in Syria to protect its interests and security.

This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel could expand its military actions to prevent the growing influence of Iran and its proxies in Syria, despite a surprise U.S. decision to withdraw all of its troops from the country.

“The decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. “We will continue to act against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there.”

President Trump’s announcement a week ago that the U.S. would withdraw an estimated 2,000 troops surprised many in Israel, increasing concerns here that the absence of an American presence in the war-torn country would enhance Iran’s ability to challenge Israel on its northern border.

“The sense now in Israel is that Israel is essentially alone in the task of back-walling the Iranian military presence in Syria,” Ofer Zalzberg, a Jerusalem-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said in an interview. “This decision feeds the notion that is prevalent in the region, even if it’s not entirely correct, that the U.S. is withdrawing. Many people draw delight from this, specifically in Tehran and Moscow.”

However, Israeli military chief Gadi Eizenkott said Sunday that while the White House’s decision to pull its troops from Syria was a “significant event,” the military would continue to independently fight Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.

The London-based Syrian Observatory reported that the targets hit on Tuesday night were weapons warehouses belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their allies, the Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah.

For the past three weeks, Israel has been engaged in what it has dubbed “Operation Northern Shield” to detect and destroy cross-border tunnels it says have been dug by Hezbollah in recent years. So far, four such tunnels snaking from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah’s home base, into Israel territory have been discovered by Israel.

While none of the tunnels so far exposed had openings on the Israeli side, they were detected through seismic sensors and ground-penetrating radar, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told journalists.

Last week, Israel and the United States called for an emergency meeting in the United Nations Security Council to discuss the tunnels and their violation of Israeli sovereignty. Ahead of the meeting Netanyahu said it was time for the international community to hold Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah accountable.

“Lebanon is doing nothing at best, colluding at worst,” Netanyahu said in a rare briefing for international reporters in Jerusalem. “My message is – Hezbollah is putting you in great jeopardy.”

Israel, which battled Hezbollah in a punishing war in 2006, has repeatedly warned that any future fight with the militant group will also encompass Lebanese government targets.

Israel sees a strengthening arc of Iranian influence — from Lebanon, through its proxy Hezbollah, across Syria to Tehran – as a threat to its security, and it has pointed to the tunnels as evidence of its enemies’ nefarious aims.

Comments are not available on this story.