Syrian army says Israel hits targets along coast and Hama region

CAIRO/AMMAN (Reuters) -Two Syrian soldiers were killed and six others wounded in an Israeli air strike on the Mediterranean port city of Tartous near the ancestral home region of President Bashar al Assad, Syrian state media reported on Wednesday.

It gave no details of the specific locations that were hit.

Later the Syrian army said Israeli missiles struck the outskirts of Hama and caused only some material damage. It gave no other details.

An opposition source said the latest strike also targeted alongside a military base in southern Hama, the Shuairat military airport, southeast of central Homs province.

The base is one of the country's main military air bases that Russia, a principal ally of Assad, has fortified and used to conduct raids against insurgents.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes against alleged Iranian targets in Syria in recent years, but has mostly avoided hitting the coastal provinces where Russia's military assets are concentrated.

Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment.

The strikes are part of an escalation of what has been a low-intensity conflict whose goal is to slow down Iran's growing entrenchment in Syria, Israeli and regional military experts say.

The strikes were close to the Russian navy's only Mediterranean base in the port of Tartous where Russian warships are docked, while Russia's Hmeimim air base is also in nearby Latakia province.

Russia's intervention alongside Iran helped turn the tide in favour of Assad in the country's over decade-old conflict.

(Reporting by Yomna Ehab, Ahmad Tolba and Suleiman al Khalidi , Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean and Daniel Wallis)