TEL AVIV – Israel has thwarted several possible Iranian missile attacks over the past few days originating from a Syrian base that was targeted in an airstrike attributed to the Israel Air Force Tuesday evening, Hebrew-language media outlets reported.
According to Syrian reports, Israel carried out a strike on a base south of Damascus that was being used by Iranian forces. Syrian state media reported that the Assad regime’s air defenses fired at two Israeli missiles, destroying both. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least nine Iranian fighters were killed in the strike.
Several Israeli reports stated that the IAF struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israel.
Tuesday’s strike marks the third time in 10 days that a raid in Syria ascribed to Israel has been reported. Israel, per a longstanding policy, has not confirmed any of these reports.
According to Ron Ben-Yishai, the military correspondent for Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Aharanoth, the Syrian reports seem to indicate that Iran has been been trying to launch missiles at Israel in recent days. Israel has employed a two-pronged preventative policy using both the military and the media.
The constant reiteration in the media by Israel’s defense establishment — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself — that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria is a means of deterring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ben-Yishai said.
He added that Israel may have been prompted to attack Tuesday once it discovered that Iran had removed rocket launchers and missile silos from underground storage and prepared them for use against the Jewish state.
The news came as President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, prompting angry demonstrations in Tehran on Wednesday morning.
A Syrian general told Syria’s state TV that Israel coordinated Tuesday’s raid to coincide with Trump’s announcement that he was pulling out of the deal, and added that the main goal of the strike was not to destroy the base but to test Syria’s resolve.
On Tuesday night, the IDF issued an unusual order to open public shelters on the Golan Heights for the first time since the Syrian civil war erupted more than seven years ago, following what it said were “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.”
Iran has publicly threatened to attack Israel over the strike it says Israel carried out against the T-4 airbase last month. Seven members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, who were reported to have been setting up an Iranian air base complete with antiaircraft batteries when the strike took place, were killed.
The Iranian threat of retaliation prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to warn Tehran, “We will destroy every site where we see an attempt by Iran to position itself militarily in Syria.”
In a separate incident at the end of April this month, another strike attributed to Israel was carried out on a reported arms shipment from Iran that included surface-to-air missiles near the western Syrian city of Hama, NBC reported. U.S. officials said the strike, which killed two dozen troops, indicated that the outbreak of war between Iran and Israel was “at the top of the list” of potential hostilities around the world.
A Syrian pro-regime official told the New York Times at the time that Iran was likely to retaliate over the strike, which he said destroyed 200 missiles.
According to several leaked reports, the commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force Major General Qasem Soleimani has been biding his time and preparing a multi-pronged attack against Israel using Shi’ite militias in Syria with precision-guided missiles and armed drones.