Outgoing Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Iran “chose the wrong playing field” when it tried to build up its military installations in Syria.
Speaking exclusively to The Times, Eisenkot provided a detailed overview of Israel’s campaign against Iranian forces in Syria. He confirmed that Israel began targeting Iranian military infrastructure in Syria “systematically a number of times each week” at the beginning of 2017. He said that due to Israel’s intelligence and aerial superiority in the country, “the Iranians chose the wrong playing field” to try and build a new front against Israel.
“We identified the Iranian strategy. They planned by the end of 2018 to have up to 100,000 Shi’ite fighters in Syria. They were bringing them in from Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. They built intelligence bases on the Golan Heights [along Israel’s border] and simultaneously built wings at all the Syrian air force bases and brought in civilians to begin a process of indoctrination in schools and population centres,” Eisenkot said.
He added: “We carried out thousands of attacks without taking responsibility and without asking for credit. According to the report, Israel dropped 2,000 bombs on Iranian targets in Syria in 2018 alone. In order to avoid escalation with Iran, extra precautions were taken to avoid harming personnel, targeting only infrastructure. The IDF Chief of Staff estimated that “only a few dozen Iranians were killed in the attacks”.
Eisenkot said most of the attacks on Iranian targets in Syria were airstrikes, but they also included ground-based missiles and Special Forces operations.
Yesterday at the weekly Israeli Government Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed media reports that the Israeli military bombed an Iranian military warehouse at the international airport in Damascus on Saturday evening. The IDF also revealed yesterday that it discovered a sixth underground Hezbollah tunnel extending 800 metres into Israel territory. The tunnel began at the Lebanese village of Ramyeh at a depth of 55 metres.
The IDF said: “With the discovery of this terror tunnel, the effort to locate the passages dug by Hezbollah that crossed the border into Israeli territory has been completed. The neutralisation of this passage will be completed in the coming days”.