3 pro-Iranian fighters said killed in overnight Syria strikes blamed on Israel

Damascus state news agency accuses Israeli jets of attacking T-4 base, where Iran is believed to maintain a permanent military presence

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage April 16, 2018. (Iranian media)
Illustrative. A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage April 16, 2018. (Iranian media)

Three pro-Iranian fighters were killed in an airstrike on a military base in central Syria late Tuesday night, according to a Britain-based monitor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday reported that the strike, which Syria attributed to Israel, targeted a weapons storehouse, as well as a building that was under construction and two military vehicles on the T-4 air base near Homs.

The base has long believed to be used by Iranian forces and allied Shiite militias and has been targeted by Israeli airstrikes in the past.

According to the Observatory, the number of dead was expected to rise as several other pro-Iranian fighters were reportedly injured in the strike.

The nationalities of wounded and killed fighters were not immediately known.

There was no comment from the Israeli military, which does not generally publicly acknowledge such operations abroad.

Syria’s SANA state news agency claimed the country’s air defenses intercepted several of the missiles fired at the T-4 air base — a common assertion by Damascus, which most defense analysts dismiss as an empty boast.

“Our air defenses immediately confronted the hostile missiles and brought down a number of them. Four missiles reached the targeted area and there were only material losses,” the news agency said, citing a military source.

SANA said the aircraft came from the al-Tanf region, in eastern Syria.

The reported strike came amid high tensions in the region following the killing of Iranian Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike earlier this month.

Protesters demonstrate over the US airstrike in Iraq that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, January 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Soleimani was seen as the architect of Iran’s project to carve out a foothold in Syria, which Israel sees as a threat and has vowed to stymie.

An IDF Military Intelligence assessment handed to the government recently said the removal of Soleimani could give Israel an opportunity to curb or halt Iran entrenchment in Syria and elsewhere.

Israel has in the past acknowledged carrying out strikes on the T-4 base, also called Tiyas, located between the cities of Homs and Palmyra.

The Tiyas, or T-4, Air Base, outside of the Syrian city of Palmyra, which Israel claims is being operated by Iran and its Quds Force. (Screen capture/Wikimapia)

Israeli defense officials have claimed the base is being used by Iranian forces as part of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to entrench militarily in Syria, something Israel has vowed to prevent.

In February 2018, an Israeli jet was shot down during an attack on the T-4 base during a one-day skirmish with Iran-backed forces.

In April of that year, Israel attacked the base again in order to destroy a recently delivered Iranian advanced anti-aircraft system, reportedly killing at least seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent military presence in Syria and is prepared to take military action to prevent it.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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