IDF walks back explosive Syria strike claim in NYT
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
The Israeli military on Monday attempted to distance itself from a quote by a senior military source in the New York Times admitting Israeli responsibility for a deadly raid on an Iranian air base in Syria.
“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets -- both facilities and people,” the unnamed Israeli military source admitted to NYT opinion writer Thomas Friedman in a column published on Sunday.
Israel, per long-standing policy, has not publicly claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn air raid targeting the Tayfur (or "T4") airbase in Syria's central Homs province last Monday, which killed several Iranian personnel.
The United States, Russia, Syria, and Iran have all said that the strike was carried out by Israel.
After the quote was widely reported in Israel and abroad, Friedman updated the column to disclose that he had been contacted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson's unit.
"After the story appeared, the Israeli Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the characterization and accuracy of the raid by my Israeli source," Friedman's addition said, "and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to avoid commenting on media reports regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and other events."
Israeli officials often hint at being behind dozens of strikes against Syrian targets in recent years, but rarely do so openly.
When asked about the Times article on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman declined to confirm it, but noted that: "we have to do what we are forced to do. We will not allow Iranian consolidation in Syria."
At the time of the strike, witnesses in Lebanon say Israeli fighter jets roared over their territory on the way to Syria.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen outlet earlier claimed that an Israeli surveillance aircraft was spotted over the base at the time of the strike.
Israeli officials have repeatedly said they will not allow Iran to establish a military infrastructure in Syria, where Tehran has long been allied to the ruling Assad family.
Israeli war planes have reportedly struck targets in Syria dozens of times, usually weapons stockpiles it feared would be transferred to Hezbollah.
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From the mouth of an Jewish antisemite.