TEL AVIV – The IDF on Monday distanced itself from an unnamed senior official quoted in the New York Times that Israel was behind an airstrike on an Iranian military facility in Syria in which at least seven Iranians were killed.
“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” the unnamed military source told the Times columnist Thomas Friedman (pictured).
However, Friedman, who wrote the article entitled “The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel” from the Golan Heights, later updated it to include a response from the IDF Spokesman’s office.
“After the story appeared, the Israeli Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the characterization and accuracy of the raid by my Israeli source, and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to avoid commenting on media reports regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and other events. He would not comment further,” the update from Monday said.
The update does not clarify if the IDF issued a denial regarding the officer’s acknowledgement that Israel was behind the attack.
Also on Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry reiterated its threat to respond to the attack, saying Israel would regret ever having carried it out. According to Israel’s Channel 2, Israel fears Iran might attack an Israeli or Jewish target overseas.
“This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” the senior IDF source told Friedman. “This opened a new period.”
The source also said that the strike on the T-4 Air Base in central Syria came in response to an infiltration by an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace. Israel on Friday said that the drone was laden with explosives and was not, as initially reported, a reconnaissance drone, but was headed to a specific target inside the Jewish state.
Friedman noted that Iran’s claim that its bases in Syria are “protection from Israel” holds no water since Israel has never shown any interest in engaging in a conflict with Syria.
“Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel has no designs on Syria; it actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos,” he wrote.
Friedman continued, “Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.”
Tehran threatened on Monday to deliver a response to the alleged Israeli strike, saying it would come “at the right time” and that Israel would “regret” what it had done.
“The Zionist entity will sooner or later receive the necessary response and will regret its misdeeds,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.
“The Zionist regime should not be able to take action and be exempt from punishment,” Qasemi stated, adding that “the Syrian and resistance forces will respond in a timely fashion and appropriately in the region.”
The warning came after a senior military leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps last week warned that Iran would destroy Israel if it continued its actions.
Last week, various Iranian officials issued a range of threats against Israel.
On Thursday, senior cleric Ali Shirazi, who is also Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the elite Quds Force, said, “Iran is not Syria. If Israel wants to survive a few more days, it has to stop this childish game.”
“Iran has the capability to destroy Israel and, given the excuse, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be razed to the ground,” he added.
A few days prior, Khamenei’s senior advisor Ali Akbar Velayati called the attack “Israel’s crime” and vowed it would “not remain without response.”
The T-4 airbase, which has been targeted by Israel on at least two occasions in the past, is said to have contained an Iranian airbase. According to Israeli TV reports, some kind of advanced weapons systems was destroyed.