Report: Israel warns Iran against sending arms to Syria under guise of quake aid

Saudi news site quotes unnamed Israeli military official saying any move by Tehran to ‘take advantage of tragic situation’ will be met with military response ‘without hesitation’

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

Illustrative: Workers unload aid from a plane sent by Iran, at the airport in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, early on February 8, 2023, following a deadly earthquake. (AFP)
Illustrative: Workers unload aid from a plane sent by Iran, at the airport in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, early on February 8, 2023, following a deadly earthquake. (AFP)

The Saudi-owned Elaph news site on Thursday cited an Israeli military official as saying if Iran ships weapons to its regional proxies under the guise of humanitarian aid to Syria following the major earthquake there, the IDF would not hesitate to strike.

The unnamed official said “there is information indicating that Iran will take advantage of the tragic situation in Syria” and ship weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and other Iran-backed groups in Syria.

He said Israel would not accept this and it would result in a “firm military response from us without hesitation.”

Several Iranian cargo planes carrying aid have landed in Syria since Monday’s major earthquake in southeast Turkey.

Esmail Ghaani, who heads the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force, was in Aleppo on Wednesday to supervise Iranian rescue operations.

The earthquake death toll was at 20,000 people in both Turkey and Syria as of Thursday evening.

Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched through mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

People walk through mounds of rubble of high-rise apartments destroyed by bombardment in the once rebel-held Ansari neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, Syria, January 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Several airstrikes against alleged Iranian weapon shipments disguised as seemingly harmless products have been attributed to Israel in recent years, including last month.

As a rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but 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.

File: A fire is seen after an alleged airstrike near the Syrian city of Masyaf, on August 25, 2022. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel plans to send aid to Syria following the earthquake, reportedly including tents, medication, and blankets.

But Syrian sources vigorously denied requesting aid from Israel, and IDF spokesman Ran Kochav told reporters that the military was not involved in potential aid to Syria.

Israel considers Syria a hostile state, and the two do not have diplomatic ties. However, during the neighboring country’s bloody civil war, the IDF carried out a massive humanitarian operation to aid Syrian civilians who arrived on the border in the Golan Heights.

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