A UAV attack in the middle of February reportedly caused major damage to Iran’s drone fleet, prompting Iran to fire missiles this week at a site in Iraq that it claims was an Israeli intelligence base.
Hundreds of drones are assessed to have been destroyed in the attack on an airbase near Kermanshah, in Western Iran, Haaretz reported Tuesday, without citing sources for the extent of the damage.
While Israel has acknowledged it targets the bases of Iranian forces and allied terror groups in Syria, as well as arms shipments believed to be bound for Iran-backed groups in the region — and is believed to have carried out covert actions inside Iran — an airstrike on Iranian territory would be very unusual.
Tehran officials have blamed Israel for the attack, though neither country had made any mention of the incident until this week. Israel has not commented at all on the alleged strike.
On Sunday night, the Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, which is linked to the Iran-back Hezbollah terror group, reported on the Kermanshah attack for the first time.
Citing “reliable sources,” it said there were six drones that took part in the raid and claimed they were launched from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The station said it was because of the drone attack that Iran fired missiles at a site near the US consulate in Erbil overnight Saturday. Iran has said the target of the missiles was a location being used by Israeli intelligence and, according to Al Mayadeen, it was from there that the February drone attack was launched.
The Lebanese report also claimed that as a result of the missile attack on Erbil, four Israeli officers were killed and seven more injured, four of whom were in a critical condition.
The US State Department has condemned the strike, which hit near a sprawling American consulate, and Kurdish authorities have denied the area was being used by Israel.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Iranian drones are a significant threat to the region — especially as Tehran arms proxies stationed along Israel’s borders. Military officials said last week that Iran’s “UAV terror” is a new and global issue, accusing Tehran of directly attacking both military and civilian targets in the Middle East.
The IDF also published footage of what it said were intercepts of Iranian drones.
The timing of the IDF’s publication was thought to be related to the ongoing, and reportedly near-completed, nuclear talks in Vienna.
Negotiators on all sides have signaled in recent days that a potential agreement to revive the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is close. Israel has highlighted the fact that the emerging nuclear deal does not address the drone issue.
The IDF believes Iran is attempting to arm all of its proxies in the region — in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen — with hundreds and even thousands of UAVs, in addition to providing military training.
Military officials say the IDF is always on full alert to protect Israel’s skies from drones. However, last month Israeli air defenses failed to down a small drone that entered the country from Lebanon, which Hezbollah claimed responsibility for launching.
A series of incidents over the past few months indicate an escalation in the shadow conflict between Israel and Iran.
A cyberattack on Monday took down Israeli government websites for over an hour on Monday evening. Israeli officials did not immediately say who was behind the attack, but some media reports were quick to point the finger at Iran.
It came as Iranian state television reported that the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard arrested members of a “network” working for Israel that planned to sabotage Iran’s major underground nuclear facility at Fordo.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.