Amid the potential of military escalation in Syria between the US and Russia, Iran has allowed Moscow to station “strategic aircraft” in its territory, Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen reported Friday.
The report on the Hezbollah-affiliated channel did not provide further details on the type of planes or the reason for their deployment on Iranian soil.
The report was not confirmed by any official sources.
The same report claimed that Moscow recently supplied Syria with advanced Pantsir-S1 air defense systems to bolster President Bashar Assad’s defense capabilities.
Western countries have threatened to launch strikes on Assad’s regime in retaliation for an alleged gas attack near Damascus in which dozens were killed, and which Western powers blamed on the Syrian government.
Russia has warned the West not to make any “dangerous” moves against its ally Assad’s regime. Any intervention increases the risk of a clash with Russian forces in Syria to defend Assad.
Meanwhile the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group said Friday that an alleged Israeli airstrike on an air base in central Syria that killed seven Iranians this week was a “historic mistake” that has brought Israel into direct conflict with Tehran.
Hassan Nasrallah said Monday’s attack on the T-4 air base ushers in a new phase that puts Israel in a state of “direct confrontation” with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iran, Russia and Syria have blamed Israel for the airstrike. Israel has refused to comment on the matter, in keeping with its policy of ambiguity regarding airstrikes outside the country’s borders.
“This is unprecedented in seven years [of war in Syria] — that Israel directly targets Iran’s Revolutionary Guard,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said the “targeted killing” of Iranians was an act of “grave foolishness.”
Iran, the Hezbollah terror organization’s main patron, has threatened to attack the Jewish state over the predawn Monday missile barrage on the air base near Palmyra in central Syria attributed to the Jewish state.
Iranian media reported that seven members of the country’s military were killed in the strike, out of at least 14 reported fatalities. One was named as a colonel in the air force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Israel’s military was put on high alert amid Iranian threats of retaliatory attacks following Monday’s airstrike.
Israel had conducted an airstrike against the T-4, also known as Tiyas, base on February 10, after an Iranian operator working out of it flew an Iranian-made drone into Israeli territory, according to the army. That incursion sparked a series of aerial clashes that resulted in the Iranian aircraft being shot down, an Israeli F-16I getting hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire and crashing in a field in Israel, and a significant percentage of Syria’s air defenses being destroyed in retaliation.
“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement at the time.
Speaking via satellite link Friday to supporters in Beirut, Nasrallah also called the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma “theater.”
Earlier Friday, Nasrallah’s deputy said a broader war was unlikely in the region despite Trump’s threats to launch retaliatory strikes.
“We rule out the situation developing into a direct American-Russian clash or a wide state of war,” Sheikh Naim Qassem told Lebanese daily al-Joumhouria, as translated by Reuters news agency.
“The conditions do not point to a total war… unless [US President Donald] Trump and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu completely lose their minds,” he added.
On Thursday, Trump put off a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria after tweeting earlier that they could happen “very soon or not so soon at all.” The White House said he would consult further with allies.