TEL AVIV – Massive Israeli strikes in Syria that Israel said destroyed nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in the country saw at least 23 fighters killed early on Thursday, according to numbers released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Five of the 23 were Syrian fighters loyal to the Assad regime, at least one of whom was an officer, while the rest were Syrians and foreigners. The report did not say whether the foreigners included Iranians.
The toll is expected to rise because many of the wounded are in critical condition, the monitoring group said.
However, Syrian forces denied the Observatory’s report, saying that only three people were killed and two wounded during the raids, which the IDF said was the most extensive strike in Syria in decades. Israel hit dozens of Iranian targets in response to a barrage of 20 rockets fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts. However, only four reached Israel and were intercepted by the Iron Dome. The rest fell in Syria.
Israel said it destroyed weapons depots, rocket launchers, logistics sites, observation posts, and intelligence centers used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Forces in Syria. It also stated that it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire.
The retaliatory attacks set back Iranian military capabilities in Syria by “many months,” the IDF said.
“28 Israeli F-15 and F-16 aircraft were used in the attack, which released around 60 air-to-ground missiles over various parts of Syria. Israel also fired more than 10 tactical ground-to-ground missiles,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement quoted by the Interfax news agency.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday morning that the IDF had destroyed “almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure sites in Syria.”
“If we get rain, you will get a flood,” he warned Tehran. “We will not let Iran use Syria as a base to attack us from.”
“The Iranians tried to attack the sovereign territory of Israel,” Liberman said.
But, he added, “We are not trying to aggravate or create a new front. The ones constantly trying to spread and build more proxies are Iran. We see them acting everywhere. Iran is trying to create a new front with us. We will not let them use Syria as a base to attack us from.”
The Israeli strikes are likely the largest in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.