TODAY   |  May 05, 2013

Israeli airstrikes pound Syria

Explosions shook Damascus just before 2 a.m. Sunday, and rebels in Syria said jets struck at least nine locations in close proximity, including a research center. Israel is now bracing for retaliation from the blasts. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we do begin with the israeli air strikes into syria . our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is near syria . richard, good morning. what can you tell us?

>> reporter: good morning, erica. these attacks were far bigger in scale to any previous ones attributed to israel , that could be felt all across damascus , and suggests that israel may be prepared to take a far bigger military role in the war in syria . syrian activists filmed in secret. whispering as explosions shook damascus just before 2:00 a.m . witnesses say shock waves were felt across the city. windows broke. and, quote, the fires made the night look like day. [ explosion ] u.s. officials tell nbc news israeli jets struck military targets on the mountains overlooking damascus . nbc news can't independently verify the videos, but witnesses said they do look like what they saw. witnesses also heard multiple fighter jets flying low, apparently trying to evade radar. rebels in damascus said the jets struck at least nine locations in close proximity, including the jamraya research center, the syrian revolutionary guard, the elite 4th division , and a weapons depot. another attack in january also attributed to israel targeted the same jamraya research center, which rebels claim is a military base jointly used by syria , iran, and the lebanese militia group , hezbollah. syrian state tv blames sunday's predawn raid on israel and accused it of helping rebels. syria maintains the uprising is led by islamic extremists and in alliance of the united states , israel , and the gulf states . and for now, there is an odd convergence with israel and groups that claim loyalty to al qaeda , fighting against a common enemy. israel which borders syria , worries both about the rise of extremism as the war in syria drags on, and that weapons are flowing out of the country. israeli sources said targets on friday and sunday included rockets bound for hezbollah. a u.s. official said israel braced for a possible retaliation from damascus , but so far, none has come. taking a precaution, israel this morning said that it mobilized its iron dome missile defense systems around the city of hiatha around israel . erica?

>> thank you.