IDF said to hit sites belonging to Hezbollah in southern Syria, then drop flyers

Syrian troops are warned to stop cooperating with Iran-backed group after reported artillery strikes; small military drone crashes in Syria

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

A flyer dropped by the Israeli military on the Syrian side of the border in the Golan Heights, on April 19, 2023. (Twitter)
A flyer dropped by the Israeli military on the Syrian side of the border in the Golan Heights, on April 19, 2023. (Twitter)

The Israel Defense Forces dropped threatening pamphlets in southern Syria on Wednesday, warning Syrian soldiers to stop cooperating with Hezbollah, an opposition journalist reported, hours after Israel reportedly conducted artillery strikes on sites belonging to the Iran-backed group.

The flyers, which were written in Arabic and addressed to Syrian Army soldiers, matched the style of similar leaflets that have been dropped in Syria in the past. The IDF refused to comment on the matter.

In the pamphlet, the Israeli military appeared to take responsibility for the overnight strikes. The IDF usually does not publicly acknowledge carrying out strikes in Syria, under its general policy of ambiguity regarding its efforts against Hezbollah in the country.

“Time after time, the Syrian army continues to pay the price as a result of Hezbollah’s incursion into its military positions. The continuation of intelligence cooperation with Hezbollah in the region and at the site of Tel Kwdana will continue to bring you suffering. You are responsible for your actions, and Hezbollah is responsible for your suffering,” the flyer read.

In another incident on Tuesday night, the IDF said a small military drone crashed in Syrian territory during “routine activity.”

The drone, a Skylark model, was on a reconnaissance mission when it fell out of the sky due to a technical fault, according to the military.

There was no fear of information leaking from the device, the IDF added.

An IDF soldier with a Skylark drone during a drill at the Tzelim army base, August 5, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

It was unclear if the drone crash was related to the strikes late Tuesday night, which targeted Hezbollah sites in and around the village of Kwdana, according to an opposition-affiliated journalist in Syria. There was no comment by Syria’s official SANA news agency or other regime-affiliated outlets.

The IDF has repeatedly accused Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s military of actively assisting Hezbollah and warned it against this, both through flyers dropped along the border and through overt, public appeals, in some cases naming the Syrian and Hezbollah officials involved, including officers from Syria’s 90th Brigade and 1st Division.

While Israel’s military does not as a rule comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country, over the last decade.

The IDF says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Illustrative: IDF tank soldiers from the 53rd Battalion of the 188th Tank Brigade are seen at an outpost overlooking Syrian villages near the Israeli border in the southern Golan Heights on May 23, 2022. (Michael Giladi/ Flash90)

Israel appears to have stepped up its activities in Syria recently, and earlier this month, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah that Israel would not tolerate any efforts to harm the country or its citizens after a man was seriously wounded in a Megiddo bomb attack blamed on the Iran-backed organization.

Israel is alleged to have carried out a number of strikes in Syria this month, including one that killed two members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

After that strike, a suspected Iranian drone launched from Syria was brought down over Israeli airspace.

Several days later, six rockets were launched from southern Syria at the Golan Heights in two separate barrages hours apart, with three landing in Israeli territory, the military said. The IDF responded with artillery strikes in response to the rocket attack.

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