TEL AVIV – Iranian cargo planes linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were reportedly sighted at an airport in Damascus around the time of an alleged Israeli airstrike that may have targeted several senior Hezbollah terror leaders.
Citing a Defense Department official who received intel from top Israeli military brass, Newsweek reported that Israel hit the Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane on Tuesday evening.
The strike was also connected with differing reports of the presence of at least one Iranian cargo jet at Damascus Airport. According to the Times of Israel, a 747 belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm landed in Damascus just after 7 p.m.
Israel’s Ynet news site reported that the same plane left Tehran Tuesday morning and landed at Imam Khomeini International Airport before taking off again for Damascus at 5:30 p.m.
Fars Air Qeshm, a civilian airline company with known ties to the IRGC, has been accused multiple times in the past of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.
However, the Jerusalem Post cited air monitoring site Flightradar24.com in its report saying “two suspicious Iranian planes left Damascus on Tuesday night just prior” to the airstrikes. A Fars Air Qeshm 747 cargo plane left Damascus International Airport at 9:28 p.m., the report said. The Boeing 747-281F left Damascus and flew east toward Tehran, climbing to 30,000 feet and then crossing into Iraq after 10 p.m.
According to the Post, a second Tehran-bound flight from Mahan Air took off from Damascus at 10:04 in the evening and flew the same route as the Fars Air Qeshm airliner.
Mahan Air, a private airline, has been accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of having links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, making its departure right after the Fars Air Qeshm plane suspicious, the report said.
Reuters cited Syrian state media as saying that Tuesday night’s strikes were conducted from Lebanon and an arms depot being used by Hezbollah was hit along with three soldiers who sustained injuries.
“Our air defenses confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli war planes from above the Lebanese territories and downed most of them before reaching their targets,” a Syrian military source said.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) December 25, 2018
According to Israel’s Hadashot news, strikes were also reportedly carried out on Syrian air defenses in Attal and on the 68th Brigade and 137th Battalion in Khan-al-Sheikh.
The IDF said it deployed air defenses against an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria.
An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 25, 2018
Footage shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera in northern Israel.