An airstrike attributed to Israel earlier this week caused major damage to a presumed missile workshop outside Aleppo in northern Syria, according to satellite images released Thursday by an Israeli intelligence firm.
Late Monday night, the Israeli military conducted two rounds of airstrikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria, including one against a weapons factory in al-Safira outside Aleppo and a second against militia bases in Deir Ezzor in the east of the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.
Those attacks appeared to be the sixth and seventh strikes attributed to Israel against Iran-linked forces in Syria in the past two weeks. There was no word on the raids by the Israel Defense Forces, which rarely comments on individual cross-border attacks, though Defense Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to confirm Israel’s role in the strikes, repeatedly saying in the days preceding and following them that Israel was working to expel Iran from Syria.
On Thursday evening, the satellite imagery analysis firm ImageSat International released photographs of the weapons factory that was struck in the raids, showing significant damage to one of the structures.
“The workshop probably had a critical role in the missile production and assembly process, and possibly included unique machinery. Such an attack can stop the production process at this site,” the firm wrote in its assessment.
In recent years, Jerusalem has accused Iran of helping the Hezbollah terror group develop advanced precision-guided missiles. Israel has vowed to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining such munitions, threatening military action in order to do so.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the airstrike on the al-Safira facility caused massive secondary explosions.
A Syrian security official told the Kremlin-backed Sputnik news outlet that the Israeli aircraft that conducted the Aleppo attack came from the region of the US military’s al-Tanf military base, which is near the Syrian border with Jordan and Iraq and is surrounded by a large de-confliction zone.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State jihadist group said it was not responsible for the strikes.
According to the Observatory, the strike on Tehran-backed militia bases in the Deir Ezzor region killed 14 pro-Iranian fighters, who were all either Iranian or Iraqi nationals.
The Britain-based monitor did not report any deaths in the strike on the weapons factory outside Aleppo.
Last Tuesday, Bennett appeared to confirm that Israel was responsible for recent attacks against pro-Iranian forces in Syria, saying that the military was working to drive Tehran out of the country.
“We have moved from blocking Iran’s entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop,” Bennett said in a statement.
“We will not allow more strategic threats to grow just across our borders without taking action,” he said. “We will continue to take the fight to the enemy’s territory.”
Bennett did not explicitly confirm Israel’s involvement in that airstrike, though his comments were seen as a clear hint to that effect.
Israeli military officials have warned that acknowledging such strikes adds pressure on Iran and its proxies to retaliate in order to save face.
On Tuesday, a senior Israeli defense official said Israel was putting pressure on Iran to leave Syria and would continue to do so until the Islamic Republic completely withdrew its forces from the country, though he refused to explicitly confirm Israel’s role in the recent airstrikes.
Jerusalem says Iran’s presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad, is a threat, as Tehran seeks to establish a permanent foothold along Israel’s northern borders. Israel has also threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from providing the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group with advanced weaponry, specifically precision-guided missiles.
Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, but the IDF has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.
Agencies contributed to this report.