Airstrikes target Iranian weapons stores in eastern Syria — report

Airstrikes target Iranian weapons stores in eastern Syria — report

Unidentified aircraft bomb warehouses at airport near Iraqi border, an area that has seen many alleged Israeli attacks in recent months, according to opposition media

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Israeli Heron military drone flies over the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on November 13, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
An Israeli Heron military drone flies over the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on November 13, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Unidentified aircraft bombed an Iranian-controlled weapons storehouse in eastern Syria on Wednesday night, causing a massive explosion, a Syrian opposition news site reported.

According to the Step News agency, the planes fired several missiles at warehouses belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at the al-Hamdan airport, outside Deir Ezzor, in the Abulkamal region of Syria, an area that has reportedly been targeted several times by Israeli airstrikes on Iranian facilities in the past year.

Troops on the ground fired anti-aircraft weapons at the attacking planes, the news site reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israeli military as a rule does not comment on its airstrikes in Syria, save for those that are in retaliation to attacks on Israel.

Satellite image showing the aftermath of an overnight airstrike on an alleged Iranian military base in Syria’s Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, on September 9, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Syria’s Abulkamal region, near the border with Iraq, is seen as a crucial region for Iran and its plans to establish a land corridor to the Mediterranean Sea in order to more easily transport materiel and fighters throughout the Middle East.

The reported attack on the IRGC weapons caches on Wednesday came some two weeks after a flareup between Jerusalem and Tehran, during which Iranian troops fired several rockets at northern Israel from Syria and the Israel Defense Forces retaliated with a series of airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian military targets.

According to the IDF, four rockets were fired at the Golan Heights and northern Galilee regions from Syria in the predawn hours of November 21. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted all four incoming projectiles, the military said.

In reprisal raids the following morning, the Israeli Air Force bombed several Iranian facilities in Syria, including a building at the Damascus International Airport used by the IRGC that had Iranian operatives in it at the time, as well as a number of Syrian air defense batteries.

“We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport. We assess that there are Iranians killed and injured,” an Israeli defense official said at the time, on condition of anonymity.

A large explosion is seen over the Damascus skyline in footage purportedly taken on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, November 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

According to a Syrian war monitor, at least 23 combatants were killed those strikes, 16 of them likely Iranians. The Israeli official said the military believed that to be an inflated number, with the actual death toll estimated to be closer to 10.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov condemned Israel for the strikes, saying they were a “wrong move” that is in “stark contrast” to international law, the Russian Interfax agency reported.

Russia backs the Assad government and has criticized previous Israeli strikes in the country, especially those that target Syrian military bases in addition to Iranian facilities.

Bogdanov added that Moscow had reached out to its allies regarding the incident, the report said. However, the IDF said it had coordinated its airstrikes with Russia.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from Syria.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah and Gaza terrorists.

The Quds Force, led by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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