On Christmas Eve, forces of the Syrian regime and Iranian military inside Syria were struck by Israeli airstrikes in the strategic town of Masyaf in Hama province.
According to Syrian news reports, Israeli attack jets flew very low over Lebanese airspace and once over Tripoli, launched a missile attack on Iranian positions in Syria.
Syrian defense officials claimed to have intercepted “a barrage of missiles.”
The Syrian Ministry of Defense issued a statement saying that Israel “launched an aggression by directing a barrage of rockets” from the Lebanese city of Tripoli towards the Masyaf area. The official news site SANA reported explosions in Masyaf.
“Our air defenses intercepted the missiles and downed most of them,” the Syrian ministry’s statement added.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based watchdog of the Syrian civil war, reported that the Israeli airstrikes destroyed warehouses and headquarters in the “Defense Factories” area where Iranian militias are stationed.
The “Defense Factories” is a scientific research center located in al-Zawi village. The Iranians are developing medium-range missiles at the site. Another such site is located at the al-Talae’ camp in Sheikh Ghadban village outside of Masyaf.
Ambulances were seen racing to the area. According to reliable sources quoted by SOHR, there were fatalities. A military academy of the Syrian regime’s forces is also located in Masyaf.
Back in June, the Israelis had hit the research facilities in al-Zawi causing multiple fatalities.
Shortly before the Christmas airstrikes occurred, Al Jazeera had reported that Israeli aircraft had been seen flying very low over Lebanese airspace.
The overflying Israeli jets spooked Lebanese civilians as they were flying very low. Civilians reported seeing explosions in the sky as Syrian anti-aircraft positions fired on the Israeli aircraft.
Israel, as is its official policy, refused to comment on the events.
Nevertheless, Israel has acknowledged dozens of airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah positions in Syria since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Israel has frequently stated that it won’t tolerate the presence of Iranian troops close to its borders.
There have been reports from the Israelis that Hezbollah, with assistance from Iran, has been establishing manufacturing sites for precision-guided missiles. Israel has targeted Iranian missile components shipments bound for Hezbollah with multiple airstrikes.
The Israelis have made it clear that they hold the government of President Assad responsible for whatever transpires within the Syrian borders. Israel has pushed the Syrians to expel both Iranian troops and their proxies.
The Russians have a large number of advisors on the ground in Syria manning the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defense systems sold to Syria. In a tacit agreement with Russia, the Israelis won’t target any Syrian anti-aircraft systems unless the systems target Israeli aircraft. Thus far, the Syrians have used the older S-300 systems against Israeli jets; they haven’t used the S-400s.
Although there have been rumors of a U.S. attack on Iran, or its regime forces in the region, prior to President Trump leaving office in January, the Israelis, as they’ve frequently done, acted on their own in this latest strike. Israel is determined to keep the pressure up on Iran in Syria.