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After Syria strike, Gantz vows to stem Iranian transfer of ‘advanced capabilities’

Defense minister hints at recent raid attributed to Israel that ‘completely destroyed’ facility in Masyaf, says IDF preparing against Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits IDF Northern Command on May 16, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits IDF Northern Command on May 16, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Days after a reported Israeli airstrike in Syria, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday vowed to prevent Iran from transferring “advanced capabilities” to other entities in the region.

“The State of Israel will continue to act against any enemy that threatens it, and prevent the transfer of advanced capabilities from Iran that endanger the citizens of Israel and harm the stability of the entire region,” Gantz said during a visit to the military’s Northern Command.

Israel has long accused Iran of transferring advanced munitions to the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, via Syria. At the same time, Syria has also improved its air defense capabilities, in part due to upgraded Iranian-made components, according to military officials.

Gantz said Israel was continuing to push ahead with defensive measures in the north. The Defense Ministry in recent months has started construction of hundreds of bomb shelters for Israeli citizens in northern towns who currently do not have access to functioning ones.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces continued its monthlong “Chariots of Fire” exercise, including a military drill within the northern city of Haifa.

Gantz said the exercises were aimed at “preparing for various scenarios against our enemies in the various theaters, and against Hezbollah and Hamas, which also operates from Lebanon.”

It was the first time an Israeli official has confirmed the Gaza-based Hamas terror group has established a base of operations in Lebanon. Israel has repeatedly blamed “Palestinian factions” for rocket attacks from its northern neighbor that were not claimed by the powerful Hezbollah terror group.

“The combination of training, operational activity, and strengthening civil resilience makes up our complete paradigm of protecting the north and the entire State of Israel,” he added.

Friday’s airstrikes in the northwestern Masyaf region of Syria “completely destroyed” a structure leading to an underground facility, according to a satellite imaging service. According to media reports, six Syrian soldiers were killed in the raid, all crewmembers of an air defense system.

This photo released by ImageSat International on May 15, 2022, shows sites allegedly struck by Israel in the Masyaf region of Syria. (ImageSat International)

The Masyaf area is thought to be used as a base for Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias and has been repeatedly targeted in recent years in attacks attributed to Israel.

Israel has carried out hundreds of sorties over Syria in the last decade, mostly to stymie attempts by Iranian forces to transfer weapons or establish a foothold.

Israeli strikes have continued in Syrian airspace, which is largely controlled by Russia, even as ties with Moscow have deteriorated in recent weeks. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine, while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

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