TEL AVIV – U.S. intelligence is monitoring a series of cargo flights from Iran to Syria that might be carrying weapons systems to be used by Tehran or the Assad regime against Israel, CNN reported Wednesday citing an unnamed U.S. official.
The flights took place in the days after the U.S.-led airstrikes on Syrian targets, the report said.
CivMilAir, a social media site that tracks “rare and interesting aircraft” around the world, recorded two flights by Syrian Air Force IL-76 cargo jets between Iran and Syria. At least one Iranian cargo jet was tracked by the Pentagon on the same route, the official told CNN.
Airborne from Tehran, Iran – 33,000ft over Iraq
— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) April 23, 2018
A 2013 report by Reuters revealed that Iran had been smuggling weapons into Syria via Turkish airspace and landing in Beirut, from where they were taken by truck to Hezbollah and Assad troops.
“The more sophisticated gear includes parts for various hardware such as unmanned aerial vehicles, shore-to-sea missiles and surface-to-surface ballistic missiles,” the report said, and added that some five tons of arms were smuggled on each flight, which occurred on a “near-weekly basis.”
Israel’s Air Force has been identified as carrying out strikes on Iranian bases in Syria, including, most recently, in February after the incursion of an explosives-laden drone into Israeli airspace and the downing of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet by Syrian forces. Last week, another Iranian drone command center was hit, and Iran, Russia, Syria and several U.S. officials said Israel was responsible for the raid. The Jewish state has yet to confirm this.
Jerusalem has made it clear that it will stop Iran from entrenching itself militarily on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani warned that the period of “hit-and-run” attacks by Israel has come to an end and it would pay a steep price for its “stupidity,” the regime-affiliated Fars news agency reported.
“When a regime thinks that it is entitled to target counterterrorism troops in a move that comes with a planned violation of another country’s airspace, it should have certainly thought of its repercussions and reactions,” Shamkhani said.
“There will definitely be a punishment of the aggressor but naturally, the time, place and quality of the response to this vicious act depends on the Islamic Republic’s will and choice,” he added.