Israel strikes at Iranian forces in Syria
Israel made a rare admission that it had carried out air strikes against Iranian forces in neighbouring Syria on Saturday, saying it thwarted a planned drone attack against it.
The strikes south-east of Damascus came just days after American officials confirmed to the Associated Press that Israel was behind a series of strikes against Iranian proxy groups in Iraq.
The military said in a statement that fighter jets targeted “Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias” who were planning “a large-scale attack of multiple killer drones.”
“The thwarted attack included plans to launch a number of armed drones intended to be used to strike Israeli sites,” the Israeli military said.
Syrian state media said air defences intercepted incoming missiles. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the strikes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement following the announcement of the air strikes saying that “Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression.”
Mr Netanyahu’s office said Friday that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed “regional developments and the situation in Syria, with emphasis on tightening the military co-ordination mechanisms.” Israel and Russia maintain a hotline to co-ordinate military activity over neighbouring Syria as Russian forces assist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in his eight-year civil war.
Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not allow Iranian forces allied with Assad to entrench along its border in Syria. It has carried out dozens of air strikes in Syria against Iranian forces and to prevent arms from reaching Hizbollah in Lebanon, but rarely makes public admissions concerning its military operations there.
American officials confirmed to the Associated Press earlier this week that Israel was responsible for the bombing of an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq last month. The Israeli strikes in Iraq would be the first since 1981, when Israeli jets destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor, and a major escalation of Israel’s campaign against Iran’s proxies in the Middle East.
While not confirming Israeli involvement in Iraq, Mr Netanyahu told an Israeli Russian-language TV station earlier this week that Iran is “trying to establish bases against us everywhere, in Iran itself, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen” and that Israel does not “give Iran immunity anywhere.”
In the wake of Saturday night’s strike, Hebrew media reported that the military had deployed air defence batteries in northern Israel, near the border with Syria. The Israeli military spokesperson’s office declined to comment on the reports.