Russia reportedly issued a “warning” to Iran hours before 20 missiles were fired at the Golan Heights from Syria, prompting a massive Israeli counter-strike.
The Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported Friday that Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had conveyed the unspecified warning to his Iranian counterpart, Abbas Araghchi, in Tehran on Wednesday.
Earlier that day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the report, Netanyahu showed the Russian premier evidence that Iran had established bases in Syria and was preparing to launch missiles at Israel.
Ryabkov’s warning reportedly prompted Iranian concerns that an attack on Israel could hinder efforts to salvage the nuclear deal in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s pullout from it on Tuesday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri argued about the benefits of the nuclear deal with its remaining parties — the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China — the report said.
“Rouhani accused the [Iranian Revolutionary] Guards of deliberately attempting to obstruct the nuclear deal,” a source told the paper. Bagheri reportedly answered, “What has the deal brought to us in order to protect it?”
On Thursday morning, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets bombed over 50 Iranian targets throughout Syria in an extensive Israeli Air Force campaign, dubbed “Operation House of Cards,” to try and destroy Iran’s military presence in the country, the army said Thursday.
The IDF said the sorties came after Iran fired 20 missiles toward Israel just after midnight on Thursday morning. Four of the missiles were knocked down by the Iron Dome air defense system and the rest fell short of Israeli territory, according to the military.
The Israeli mission — the largest air campaign it carried out in Syria in over 40 years — was “very successful,” a senior air force officer said Thursday, but warned that Iranian forces in Syria are still believed to be in possession of surface-to-surface missiles that could be fired at Israel.
The army also published pictures Friday of what it said was an Iranian Quds Force compound in al-Kisweh, south of Damascus, and an “Iranian logistics compound” 10 kilometers northwest of the capital.
Iran denied the claim that it fired rockets at Israeli territory and insisted it does not maintain military bases in Syria.