Israeli helicopters said to strike Iranian-linked targets in Syrian Golan
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Israeli helicopters said to strike Iranian-linked targets in Syrian Golan

Damascus state media says IDF attacked near Quneitra, causing ‘material damage’; report follows several bombings of Iran-linked targets in recent weeks

Illustrative: A Syrian anti-aircraft missile fired over Damascus on April 27, 2020 (screencapture/Twitter)
Illustrative: A Syrian anti-aircraft missile fired over Damascus on April 27, 2020 (screencapture/Twitter)

Syria accused Israeli helicopters of carrying out airstrikes in the Syrian Golan Heights in the early hours of Friday morning.

“From the occupied Golan airspace, enemy Israeli helicopters attacked positions in the southern region with several missiles,” Syrian state news agency SANA said shortly after midnight.

SANA said the missile strike in the area of Quneitra caused “only material damage.” It did not report any casualties or specify what was targeted.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, confirmed the strikes, saying they targeted military positions of Iranian forces and pro-Iran militias.

The attack follows a series of strikes on Iran-linked forces in Syria in recent weeks.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday appeared to confirm that Israel was behind an airstrike against pro-Iranian forces in Syria on Monday, saying 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.”

The airstrike early Monday on a military airfield outside Damascus killed four pro-Iranian fighters, according to the Observatory for Human Rights. Three Syrian civilians were also reportedly killed by shrapnel, though it was not clear if the fragments came from the incoming missiles or Syria’s air defenses.

The Observatory said a number of Iranian-linked command centers were destroyed in the attack.

Bennett did not explicitly confirm Israel’s involvement in the airstrike, though his comments were seen as a clear hint to that effect.

A day before the strike, Bennett also appeared to signal that one was forthcoming, telling listeners in an interview on the 103FM radio station on Sunday to “keep your ears open” for news about Israeli actions against Iran in Syria.

“We’ve gone from a policy of blocking [Iran] to pushing it out,” Bennett added.

Israeli military officials have warned that acknowledging such strikes adds pressure on Iran and its proxies to retaliate in order to save face.

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 Israel Defense Forces has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.

Last week Syria accused Israel of hitting targets near Homs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the targets were “military posts for Iranian militias in the Palmyra desert.”

On April 15, a car driven by several Hezbollah operatives was targeted in a strike attributed to Israel as it made its way from Syria toward Lebanon. The passengers in the vehicle escaped after an apparent warning shot was fired next to the car.

A private Israeli intelligence firm on Thursday released images showing the aftermath of the Monday airstrike against Iran-backed forces in Syria that was attributed to Israel. The attack targeted a warehouse outside of Palmyra and the entrance to an underground facility near Damascus, according to the satellite images.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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