The Israeli Air Force conducted a heavy airstrike on a Syrian military airport outside of Damascus, before dawn on Monday, hitting several positions that base Iranian troops.
Early reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) stated that seven people were killed, four Iranian troops and three civilians, while four other people were wounded, including a child.
Syrian military reports stated that their air defense units had “confronted the Israeli aggression.” As is typical for the vast majority of airstrikes in Syria, the IDF neither confirmed nor denied responsibility. Yet, this latest airstrike — the second one in less than a week and the third in 10 days in Syria — comes just a day after Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett esssentially told the media that military action was impending.
In an interview with 103FM in Israel, Bennett said, “Keep your ears open. We’ve gone from a policy of blocking [Iran] to pushing it out.” Bennett also said that Israel is “more determined” than the Iranians, adding that “[the situation has] been good for [Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria] recently.”
The SOHR, a U.K.–based Syrian civil war monitor, said the targets were “military posts for Iranian militias in the Palmyra desert.”
According to the SOHR, the Israeli airstrikes targeted and destroyed several specific headquarters and bases where Iranian forces, as well as the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group and Iranian proxy militias, are located.
The Syrian government-owned news service SANA reported minor damage at the Mezzeh airport outside of Damascus. It claimed that Syrian anti-aircraft missiles shot down the majority of the Israeli missiles.
SANA also reported that the civilian dead and wounded were from shrapnel from Israeli missiles that hit civilian homes in the towns of al-Hujaira and al-Adliya outside of Damascus. However, SOHR stated that it was unclear whether the shrapnel was from Israeli missiles or from the Syrian ones had fired on them.
The opposition-run television station Halab Today reported that, according to witnesses, ambulances were running non-stop for an hour after the airstrike. Loud explosions were also reported in the area before Syrian Air Defense units even began firing. This casts doubt on the Syrian claims that they shot down the majority of the incoming missile. Yet, dubious claims for the sake of saving face, is something that the Syrian regime regularly does.
Al-Arabiya reported that the IDF airstrikes targeted sites belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and were specifically aimed against Iranian officials in the area. Large numbers of Hezbollah forces were also present in the targeted area. According to al-Arabiya, the airstrikes were relayed to and okayed by the Russians.
Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, Israel has admitted to conducting hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian or Hezbollah positions and has made it abundantly clear that they will not accept an Iranian base close to their borders. Both the IRGC and Hezbollah have been trying to set up on the all-important Golan Heights. This is something that Israel will not abide by, as stated by Bennett and demonstrated by recent airstrikes.
“For Iran, Syria is an adventure far from home: 1,000 km from home, from the Golan Heights. For us, it’s life,” Bennett said. “Iranian soldiers who come to Syria and operate within Syria: Their blood is on their heads. They are risking their lives and paying with their lives. We will not allow the establishment of an advanced Iranian base in Syria.”