Israel intensifies attacks on Iranian targets in Syria

Five Iran-backed militiamen, two Syrian soldiers said to have been killed.
Wednesday 24/06/2020
A file picture shows Syrian air defence intercepting an Israeli missile in the sky over the Syrian capital Damascus, last February. (AFP)
A file picture shows Syrian air defence intercepting an Israeli missile in the sky over the Syrian capital Damascus, last February. (AFP)

BEIRUT- Military bases in Syria believed to be used by Iranian and Iran-backed militias were attacked late Tuesday by Israeli planes, killing at least five Iranian-backed militiamen and two Syrian regime soldiers in an apparent intensification of strikes against the presence of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

The areas in eastern and southern Syria have already been hit by Israel in recent months.

A senior Syrian military defector and a regional intelligence source told Reuters that an Iranian arms depot near the city of Salamiya, in the Hama province, was set on fire after it was repeatedly bombed, while a command centre in the town of Sabura run by Iranian militias was also severely damaged.

According to regional intelligence sources quoted by Reuters, “Israel’s strikes on Syria are part of a shadow war approved by Washington and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.”

In recent months, Israeli officials have expressed concern that Iranian-backed militant Lebanese group Hezbollah is trying to establish production facilities for precision guided missiles. Tension has also been rising along the Israel-Lebanon border.

According to news reports, Syrian air defences responded to Israeli attacks on military posts in a central province early on Wednesday, shortly after similar attacks in the south killed two soldiers, the defense ministry in Damascus said.

The coordinated aerial attacks targeted military bases in the southern Sweida and the southeastern Deir ez-Zor province. The Syrian defence ministry’s statement did not say who was behind the attacks, only that the aircraft flew over eastern Syria. It said the country’s air defence were activated.

Map of Syria locating Hama military airbase. (AFP)
Map of Syria locating Hama military airbase.(AFP)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “Israeli strikes targeting several positions of Iranian-backed militias on Al-Sukhna- Deir ez-Zour road in eastern Syria. The attack destroyed a military center of the militias, killing five militiamen, amid reports suggesting that others were injured, some in a serious condition.”

It also said that, “at least two soldiers of the regime air defence were killed and others injured by Israeli strikes targeting a communications and radar centre, in a military gatherings of regime forces, which includes Iranian-backed militias, in Tal Al-Sahen area in rural Al-Sweida. The Israeli strikes caused extensive damage to the communications tower and ignited fire in the area.”

Israel rarely comments on such attacks in Syria. But in recent weeks, it was believed to have carried out several attacks on targets inside Syria believed to be Iranian and proxy interests. In the past two months alone, Syria has accused Israel of carrying out at least eight air raids on its territory.

In a rare comment, a top Israeli military official acknowledged June 7 his country’s responsibility for airstrikes in Syria and Lebanon.

Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin said his forces have escalated their strikes in Syria and Lebanon.

“In the time of corona(virus), the Air Force operated in wider scopes compared to before the corona(virus),” said Major-General Norkin in a video conference with Israeli airline industry.

He identified Iran as the target of the strikes and said the purpose was ” to deter Iranian strategic capabilities in the region.”