The Israeli Air Force pounded several different Syrian and Iranian troop sites on Wednesday morning. The attacks came after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Tuesday that they had uncovered an Iranian-led operation to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along the northern Israeli border.
Israeli troops claimed the explosives were placed by a “Syrian squad led by Iranian forces.”
The IDF said the incident is “further clear proof of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria.” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who visited the northern border on Tuesday, said that Israel would not tolerate the planting of explosives in the Golan.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to this. It’s a grave incident,” Gantz announced.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman LTC Jonathan Conricus, said that eight targets belonging to the Syrian army and Iran’s Quds Force were hit by the Israeli Air Force. He added that the target area stretched from the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights to outside of the capital of Damascus.
Targets included an Iranian headquarters at Damascus international airport, which was characterized as a “secret military site” hosting Iranian military delegations and the 7th Division of the Syrian armed forces. Syrian surface-to-air batteries were hit after firing at Israeli planes and missiles, Conricus added. The Israelis normally won’t target Syrian ADA sites unless they engage their aircraft. Targets also included “storage facilities, headquarters, and military compounds.”
The Syrian military said that three soldiers were killed. As per usual, it didn’t report on Iranian casualties.
However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based Syrian civil war watchdog, said that at least 10 people were killed. These included five Iranians from the elite Quds Force, as well as at least two Shi’ite militiamen from Lebanon or Iraq.
Denying the above, a Syrian commander in an alliance of regional forces that backs Damascus, denied there were Iranians or Lebanese among the casualties.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad has never acknowledged the presence of Iranian combat troops in the country. Instead, it claims that the Iranian troops there are merely advisors.
SANA, the official Syrian government news service, called the airstrikes further “Israeli aggression.” It reported that three military members were killed and one wounded.
One former Syrian military official told Reuters that the Israelis also targeted a Hezbollah base in Syria close to the Lebanese border, alongside bases in the southern Damascus area and outposts in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights where Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, also has a presence.
The Israelis, however, did not mention any strikes against Hezbollah.
Tehran has used the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to move explosives, missiles, and proxy forces close to the Israeli border. The Israelis have been hitting Iranian targets in Syria since the civil war began. Most of the time, they have not been commenting publicly on them. But this time, the Israeli response was different.
The airstrikes on Wednesday morning were much more widespread and hit a higher number of targets than usual. Further, the Israelis, contrary to their standard policy, were very forthcoming in providing operational details. Thus, clearly, Tel Aviv is sending a message to Tehran and Damascus that regardless of who sits in the White House, it is resolved to keep Iran from its border.
These recent events point to two distinct policies: Firstly, that Iran will continue to boldly target Israel along its borders using proxy forces bolstered by Quds Force. And secondly, that Israel will resolutely pursue its aggressive policy of not allowing any Iranian presence on its border region.
It is the stated Israeli position that they hold the Syrian government responsible for any and all actions conducted inside of their territory, regardless of whether the actions are conducted by Iranian troops, their proxies, or the Syrian armed forces.