On Saturday night after 22:00, jets pounded three different Iranian militia sites in Syria, including at the all-important border crossing with Iraq. The airstrikes took place in the Abulkamal region of Syria.
While no one is claiming responsibility for the strikes, it is believed that they were undertaken by Israel. Israel never comments on airstrikes, neither confirming nor denying them. The area has been often targeted by Israeli airstrikes.
Five militias were killed in the strikes, as was reported by the media.
Despite the Israelis not commenting on specific airstrikes, on Sunday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that the Israelis have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept Iranian bases in Syria or its borders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has many times echoed as such.
“It is no secret that Iran is trying to establish a ring of fire around our country, it is already based in Lebanon and is trying to establish in Syria, Gaza and more,” Bennett said. “We need to move from containment to attack.”
“If you don’t leave, you will become entrenched and you will bleed because we will work without hesitation to remove aggressive forces from Syria.”
“We are telling the Iranians: Syria will become your Vietnam,” he added.
Iran has been nearing completion of a military base in the Abulkamal area along the border with Iraq. This is seen as Iran’s land bridge through which it can shuttle missiles, weapons and equipment from Iran, through their proxies in Iraq, to militias in Syria.
The building of bases near the Golan Heights puts an Iranian base and presence right along the border with Israel. The short-range rockets that Iran is bringing into Syria can easily hit Jerusalem.
Iranian-led militias recently launched several rockets at Israel from the Golan region. This led to massive IDF aerial counter-strikes. On Wednesday, the IDF conducted several airstrikes on another Iranian base at Abulkamal where it is believed that Iran stores weapons. Observers reported seeing a massive secondary explosion.
Jerusalem’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz was in Italy for a conference and was asked by Italian media if Israel would attack Iran directly. He didn’t mince any words:
Katz made it clear that the European powers shouldn’t be concerned with preserving the Iran Nuclear Deal struck in 2015, but should be embracing the sanctions that the United States has imposed on Iran which have curtailed its expansionist aims. However, he warned that Iran will continue to attack shipping in the Gulf.
“The actions against Saudi Arabia and the oil tankers make us understand that Iran still feels strong. Our intelligence information tells us that it intends to hit the Gulf countries again. The threat of sanctions is not enough. The only deterrent is a military threat directed against the regime,” Katz added.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas fired three rockets at Israel on Saturday as air raid sirens sounded in the Israeli border town of Sderot and in other communities close to Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. All three missiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.
The Israelis responded with airstrikes against several Hamas military targets early on Sunday, hitting several military camps and a naval base. No casualties were reported.