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Syria says Israel struck Iran-operated airbase near Homs

Israel's army said it had carried out widespread raids against Iranian targets in Syria overnight after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran
Handout / STR (CENTRAL WAR MEDIA/AFP)

Syria on Sunday accused Israel of targeting an air base in the central Homs province known to be operated by Iranian forces, claiming that its air defenses were activated in response to the attack and hit an Israeli jet.

Syrian state media said the country's air defense missiles were launched at Israeli warplanes entering its airspace from Jordan, thus foiling an attack on the T-4 air base, also known as Tayfur Military Airbase.

"Our air defenses are responding to an Israeli aggression and intercepting a number of missiles targeting the airport, hitting one of the attacking planes and forcing the rest to leave the airspace," the official SANA news agency quoted a military source as saying.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP that a missile bombardment killed an unspecified number of "Iranian and pro-regime fighters" at the T-4 base and was "likely to be Israeli."

The Israeli planes reportedly passed through the al-Tanaf area where the US forces have a base.

Israel has previously admitted to striking the base or has been accused of striking the base several times before. It is widely reported to house Iranian personnel and arms.

In April, Israel acknowledged targeting a shipment of advanced air defense weapons, including a missile with a 110 kilometer range, at the base. The strike killed at least seven members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), officials said.

Iran immediately vowed revenge and Israel launched "Operation Chess" in an effort to thwart Iranian retaliation with a series of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria.

In May, Iran fired a volley of 32 rockets into the Israeli Golan Heights from Syria. In response, Israel launched an extensive campaign of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria including “intelligence sites, logistic facilities, military compounds, storage facilities as well as observations posts.”

Sunday's report of an Israeli attack comes only days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two leaders are expected to “ensure security coordination and discuss regional developments.”

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he will insist during his meeting with Putin that Israel’s national security interests vis a vis Syria are being met.

Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP

“At the meeting I will reiterate the two basic principles of Israel's policy: First, we will not tolerate the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies anywhere in Syria – not close to the border and not far away from it. Second, we will demand that Syria, and the Syrian military, strictly uphold the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement,” Netanyahu said.

“It is self-evident that I am in regular contact with the American administration. These links with the two great powers are very important to the security of Israel at all times and especially at present,” Netanyahu added during his weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu and Putin have met and held phone calls regularly since Russia's direct military intervention in the Syrian civil war in 2015.

Israel has reportedly carried out scores of air strikes in Syria, largely targeting advanced weapons it believed destined for Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Russia has largely given Israeli warplanes a free hand over the country's skies despite its own large-scale military presence there, but the relationship between Jerusalem and Moscow has been tested again by Syria's new offensive to reclaim the country's southwest from an array of rebel forces.

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