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Alleged Israeli strike in Syria targeted ‘game changing’ Iranian air defenses — TV

After airstrike Saturday morning, unsourced report names IRGC commander allegedly leading ‘new effort’ to deploy Iranian systems in Syria

This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday, June 9, 2019, shows the Khordad 15, a new surface-to-air missile battery at an undisclosed location in Iran. The system uses locally made missiles that resemble the HAWK missiles that the US once sold to the shah and later delivered to the Islamic Republic in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)
Illustrative: This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on June 9, 2019, shows the Khordad 15, a surface-to-air missile battery at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

An airstrike Saturday in Syria that was attributed to Israel targeted Iranian attempts to bring “game changing” air defense systems to Syria, Israeli television reported.

According to Channel 12 news, the location of the morning strike, which hit the Syrian town of al-Hamidiyah near the port city of Tartus, “implies that it [targeted] a weapon transported by sea, possibly using Iranian ships that docked at the port last week.”

The report added that the strike came amid “a new move by the Iranians in Syria to bring in air defense system to protect their military interests.”

The network provided no source for the assessment; according to Syrian state media, the airstrike destroyed “poultry farms” and wounded two civilians.

Military officials have said in the past that Syria has improved its air defense capabilities with upgraded Iranian-made components. In a 2018 strike, Israel reportedly targeted a soon-to-be-deployed Iranian advanced air defense system.

Channel 12 said Saturday that this “new effort” was being led by a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in cooperation with the Syrian army, with the aim of enabling Tehran to operate its own air defense systems in Syria.

The network named the IRGC officer as Farid Mahmads Sakai, saying “it’s no coincidence his name is being published now.” No details were provided on where the officer’s name was published nor any further information on his rank and position.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. It says it targets bases of Iran and allied militias, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria, as well as arms shipments believed to be bound for various proxies.

In another unsourced report, Channel 12 said two explosions occurred at an IRGC base southeast of Tehran, causing “extensive damage” on Friday night.

There has been no official comment on the incident, which was widely circulated on social media and picked up by the opposition supporting Iran International, which is based in London.

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