JERUSALEM / AMAN – Israel launched airstrikes against what it called a wide range of Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday, signaling that it would continue its policy of striking across the border, despite the defeat of US President Donald Trump.
Israel has said it is retaliating for a so-called Iranian operation in which Syrians planted explosives near an Israeli military base in the occupied Golan Heights.
Israel has often attacked, as they say, Iran-related targets in Syria in recent years and has stepped up similar attacks in recent years in what Western intelligence sources describe as a shadow war to reduce Iran̵
But Wednesday’s attacks hit a far wider range of targets than usual, and the Israeli military has been more open about details than in the past, suggesting a clear intention to send a public message.
Trump, who lost his re-election candidacy on November 3, supports Israeli military intervention against Iranian forces in Syria. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will try to revive the nuclear deal with Iran that Trump abandoned.
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The Syrian state news agency reported that three servicemen were killed and one wounded in “Israeli aggression”.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Konricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said eight targets belonging to the Syrian army or Iranian Quds were hit in areas stretching from the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights to the outskirts of Damascus.
These include Iran’s headquarters at Damascus International Airport, a “secret military facility” housing Iranian military delegations, and the 7th Division of the Syrian Armed Forces, he said. The Syrian ground defense was hit after firing on Israeli planes and missiles, Conricus said.
Western countries say Quds forces of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps are responsible for supporting Tehran’s allies in proxy conflicts in the Middle East.
A former Syrian military commander told Reuters that the attacks also targeted a base of Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah in Syria near the Lebanese border, along with bases in southern Damascus, and forced it into the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. Hezbollah has a presence.
Conricus did not mention Hezbollah’s goals.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an observer of the war, said at least ten people had been killed, including five Iranians from Quds elite forces, as well as at least two Shiite militiamen who may have been Lebanese or Iraqis. A commander in an alliance of regional forces supporting Damascus has denied having Iranians or Lebanese among the victims.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has never publicly acknowledged that there are Iranian forces acting on his behalf in Syria’s civil war, saying Tehran has only military advisers on the ground.
Western intelligence sources say Israeli strikes this year have undermined Iran’s vast military power in Syria without causing a significant increase in hostilities.