Iran’s much-vaunted missile strike on Islamic State targets in Syria late Sunday was a flop, with six of the seven medium-range missiles it fired failing to hit their target, Israeli sources said Monday.
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force in charge of the country’s missile program, said it launched six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from the western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan. The missiles flew over Iraq before striking what the Guard called an Islamic State command center and suicide car bomb operation in Deir el-Zour, according to Tehran. The Fars semi-state news agency quoted sources saying at least 360 terrorists were killed.
But sources quoted in Hebrew media on Monday evening said three of what they said were the seven ballistic missiles didn’t even make it as far as Syria, falling to earth in Iraq, and only one of the seven landed in its intended target, an Islamic State base in Syria’s mostly IS-held Deir Ezzor province. Another of the seven landed hundreds of yards away, in the city of Mayadin.
“If the Iranians were trying to show their capabilities and to signal to Israel and to the Americans that these missiles are operational, the result was rather different,” Channel 2 analyst Ehud Yaari said. It was “a flop,” said Ya’ari. “A failure.” Still, he added dryly, “it photographed well.”
Syrian opposition activist Omar Abu Laila, who is based in Germany but closely follows events in his native Deir el-Zour, said two Iranian missiles fell near and inside Mayadin, an Islamic State stronghold. He said there were no casualties from the strikes. The IS group did not immediately acknowledge the strikes.
Iranian media has highlighted the missile attack as a success and the first by Iran outside its own territory in 30 years, since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. Iran presented the missile strike as a response to twin IS terror attacks in Iran on June 7 in which 17 people were killed, and Revolutionary Guards officials warned that other assaults on Iran would lead to similar retaliatory attacks.
The strike was “much less impressive than the media noise Iran is making around the launch,” a military source was quoted saying in Hebrew news site Haaretz.
The strike was seen as a threatening message to Iran’s rivals in the region and elsewhere. “The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” Gen. Ramazan Sharif of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard told state television. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”
Speaking to The Times of Israel later Monday, Ya’ari said his information was based on security sources, and that these sources were “amazed” at the poor performance of the Iranian missiles. “This is what they have to show for 30 years of missile development? Even Hezbollah can do better,” he quoted the sources as saying.
Ya’ari noted that Iranian officials, trying to cover up the extent of the failure, have been repeating over and over in the past few hours how successful the missile strike was.
Another Hebrew media outlet, Walla news, quoted unnamed “diplomatic sources” also saying that only one or two of the seven Iranian missiles hit their target.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Monday warned Iran not to challenge Israel and to watch its own back. “I have one message for Iran: Don’t threaten Israel,” Netanyahu said.
A spokesman for the Guards declared earlier Monday that the missiles it fired into Syria successfully hit Islamic State group targets.
“Based on credible information, the missile operation against Daesh has been successful,” Revolutionary Guards spokesman General Ramezan Sharif said on the elite force’s Sepahnews website.
Sharif also warned that such attacks would be repeated if the extremists take action against Iran’s security. “If (IS) carry out a specific action to violate our security, definitely there will be more launches, with intensified strength,” he said
The Guards said it fired six missiles from the west of Iran into Syria’s mostly IS-held Deir Ezzor province.
Iranian media reported that some of the mid-range missiles were of the Zolfaghar type, a precision-guided missile with a range of about 750 kilometers (466 miles). Ya’ari said they were a development of the Fateh missile type.
Iran’s homegrown missiles, a serious point of contention with Washington and Jerusalem, are said to be able to reach up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,240 miles).
State TV showed mobile missiles launchers being moved in daylight.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) June 19, 2017
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace wing, told state television: “The missiles were fired from Iran and they passed over Iraq and landed in Syria.”
“Drones flying from near Damascus to Deir Ezzor transmitted (footage of) missiles hitting their targets,” he said.
“Firing these missiles from 600 or 700 kilometers away onto a small building… demonstrates Iran’s capacity and intelligence capabilities” against jihadist groups, he added.
Hours earlier, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a statement vowed Iran would “slap its enemies” in honor of the families of victims, including those killed in Syria and Iraq.
Agencies contributed to this report.