TEHRAN — A senior Iranian security official threatened Israel with harsh “reactions” if the Jewish state “continues to attack” Iranian and government forces in Syria.
The semi-official Fars news agency quotes Ali Shamkhani, of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that in case of further airstrikes, Israel “will face reactions that would cause sorrow and penitence.”
Earlier in September, Israel attacked the airport in the Syrian capital, Damascus, with missiles that are believed to have targeted arms depots there of Iranian forces and/or the Lebanese terror Hezbollah group — both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops in the civil war.
The airstrike led to an incident in which Syria shot down a Russian spy plane, killing 15 soldiers. Moscow has blamed the incident fully on Jerusalem.
Iran has maintained that its forces in Syria play an advisory role to the Syrian army in its war on Islamic State jihadists and armed opposition groups.
In his speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would stay in Syria for as long as the Assad regime wanted it there, but said Tehran was not seeking conflict with the United States in the Middle East.
Israel has repeatedly warned that it would not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria and has repeatedly hit Iranian bases in airstrikes, seeking to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Israel has also extensively lobbied Washington and Moscow, another key ally of Syria and Iran, to ensure Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias are kept as far away from the Israeli border as possible.
Despite the crisis in Israel-Russia ties over the downing of the plane, Israel has restated that it would continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s entrenchment there, and to thwart transfers of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.