Israel says destroyed Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fired at Golan
عن مصادر سورية
Israel's military struck at Iranian targets early on Monday after it intercepted a rocket fired from Syrian territory hours earlier.
Taking the rare step of publicly announcing the attack while it was going on, the IDF later confirmed that it had carried out the attack as retaliation for a surface-to-surface missile that was fired "by an Iranian force from Syria into Israeli territory, intended to damage the northern Golan Heights."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said they were the deadliest Israeli strikes in Syria since May last year.
IDF said targets included munitions stores, a site at Damascus International Airport, an Iranian intelligence installation and an Iranian military training camp.
On Monday morning, the commander of the Iranian air force, General Aziz Nasirzadeh, said that his army forces were well prepared for the day of Israel's destruction, declaring that"we are ready for a decisive battle with Israel that will lead to its disappearance."
Iran had been preparing for the attack months in advance, IDF Spokesman Ronen Manlis claimed.
"The Iranian missile was launched after very long preparations and a decision-making process that was taken months ago," said Manlis on Monday, adding that the exact target was unclear but that there was no resulting damage or casualties.
According to the Britain-based monitor on the ground, 11 people in Syria were killed overnight during the Israeli "bombardment," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
A Russian spokesperson, meanwhile, claimed four Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes.
During the night, the IDF issued a statement saying it was "currently striking" the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force in Syria and warned Syria's military against "attempting to harm Israeli territory or forces."
Israel confirmed that its attack had been partly repelled by Syrian fire, and that Israeli forces had therefore destroyed a number of Syrian air defense batteries.
"In response to the attack, during the night (Israeli military) fighter jets struck Iranian Quds Forces military targets in Syria in addition to Syrian aerial defence batteries."
The SOHR monitor reported Israeli missile strikes in the area of the Damascus airport and areas around the capital.
Simultaneously, Syrian state media said that anti-missile defenses were responding to strikes over the Syrian capital, reporting wave after wave of Israeli attacks apparently coming from fighter jets in Lebanese airspace.
Russian sources later said that air missile defense systems in Syria had downed more than 38 Israeli missiles.
The Israeli military confirmed it had targeted a "weapons storage site at Damascus International Airport, an Iranian intelligence site, and an Iranian training camp".
Israel's military said on Sunday its air defense systems intercepted a rocket fired at the northern Golan Heights, after Damascus accused Israel of carrying out air raids in the country's south.
Israel has pledged to stop its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighboring Syria.
It has carried out hundreds of air strikes there against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Tehran-backed Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.
After publicizing the strikes on Damascus in the early hours of Monday morning, the IDF said it would close the popular Mount Hermon skiing resort, probably for fear of retaliation.
Earlier on Sunday, Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a military source saying Syria's air defenses went into action after Israel earlier in the day launched air strikes on the south of the country.
The Russian army said Syrian air defenses destroyed seven Israeli projectiles, after four of the Jewish state's F-16 military planes "fired rockets into Syrian territory."
Risks of angering Russia
The Israeli operation seems to go against reported Russian concerns over the Jewish state's actions in Syria, although Israel has done a lot to keep channels of communication with Moscow open.
Military coordination between Israel and Russia took a hit after a friendly fire incident in September that led to a Russian plane being downed by Syrian air defences during an Israeli strike.
The incident angered Russia and complicated Israel's operations in Syria, particularly after Moscow's delivery of the advanced S-300 air defence system there in response.
Israel has sought to keep its coordination with Russia on track and maintain its ability to strike in Syria.
On Thursday, Israeli military officials concluded a series of talks with their Russian counterparts aimed at improving coordination in the war-torn country.
It might have been as part of this consultation that Russia reportedly told Israeli authorities to stop hitting Damascus airport, as Moscow aims to work towards a normalization of the Assad regime.
The strikes earlier on Sunday diverted at least one plane, with Mahan Air's daily flight from Tehran forced to turn back just before landing in Damascus. The plane, which landed in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah, eventually landed in the Syrian capital in the early evening.
The poor Mahan air passengers who were supposed to land, now going back to Tehran over Iraq...at 13:56 after the airstrikes near Damascus, the flight is serving them extra tea for their inconvenience, and a special meal. pic.twitter.com/RlqHPdvxgV— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) January 20, 2019
Security or politics?
Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have been speaking more openly about the Syria strikes in recent days, with some analysts saying the premier seems to want to further burnish his security credentials ahead of April 9 elections.
There are mounting concerns after the surprise announcement of US pullout of troops from Syria that Iran will take advantage of the security vacuum in order to entrench itself even further in the war-torn country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday that "we have a permanent policy: to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us."
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