On Thursday 10 May 2018 BICOM hosted a briefing with Lt Col. Jonathan Conricus, the Spokesman and Head of Social Media of the IDF, for a briefing on the Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria in the early hours of Thursday 10 May morning. Below is an edited transcript.
Lt Col. Jonathan Conricus: I am here in the Bental Mountain in the Golan Heights in Israel. I’ve been here for the best part of the day. The situation currently is stable but, of course, tense. However, we continue to monitor the situation of the Iranians inside Syria. Given that the event and the current situation are still not back to normal, we still cannot say we are back to routine activity. There still may be intentions to strike Israel and continue the engagement. However, we must remain vigilant and continue to monitor what the Iranians are doing.
In terms of what happened yesterday, at 12:10 am local time, the Iranians fired 20 rockets from a multi-barrel launcher from el-Kisweh, south of Damascus. They fired them towards Israeli positions on the Golan Heights. Out of the 20 rockets, 16 fell short and four were on route to their target but were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. At the end of the Iranian attack, there were no casualties and only extremely limited damage to Israeli facilities, hardly any at all. The IDF saw this as a severe act of aggression and an attack against Israel. We have been clear about our intentions and what is acceptable and not acceptable, in the past.
Shortly thereafter, we launched a wide-scale retaliatory attack, using the Air Force to strike 70 different military targets, all of them belonging to the Quds Force, which is the elite part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force, commanded by Qassem Suleimani. They were the ones who were behind the attack. He is the one behind who has guided the Iranian expansionist regime. He has been the moving force behind the Houthi Rebels in Yemen, to a large extent Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the expansionist attempts by Iran’s presence in Syria. The focus of the IDF’s retaliation was to deliver a blow to the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force’s hardware and infrastructure. The pilots reported “clean hits” and, despite coming under fire from surface-to-air missiles, they were able to complete their mission and return to base safely.
Due to the fact that the Syrian Regime decided to engage our planes with air defence missiles, despite the fact that we have communicated in advance to the Syrian military that we are retaliating against Iranian action and have warned them in advance, they engaged our troops, our planes. That led us to fire on some components of the Syrian Air Defence array in addition to the Iranian targets.
We have a situation on the ground that is extremely tense. In terms of Israeli civilians, they are back to almost normal duty and activity. Children were at school today and adults are working. That is, of course, how the IDF hopes to have it. On the other hand, the IDF continues to follow events and be vigilant about the Iranian activities.
We are not seeking to escalate the situation. We are defending our sovereignty, our citizens and our territory. We tried to deliver that message to the Iranians, we tried to impress upon them that it is not in Iranian interest, Syrian or the regional interest for Iranians to attack Israel. We hope that they will understand this message and act accordingly.
Question: Could you spell out a little bit more the range and scope of the Iranian deployment in Syria. The weapon that fired upon you, it looks like a Russian supplied system that was assumedly supplied to the Syrians. Why was that used by the Iranians?
JC: We’ve been following the Iranian deployment, specifically the Quds force in Syria for a long period of time. Part of the fact that we were able to finish yesterday with zero casualties on the Israeli side and still succeed in our retaliatory missions is due to the intelligence that we have. We struck proper Quds force targets, all of them were Iranian and all of them were Quds Force targets, not militias, not proxies, not bystanders not anything that wasn’t core Iranian. We struck various infrastructure, intelligence collection facilities, visual intelligence and communications intelligence. We struck arms depots, components of airfields that are used for Revolutionary Guard aircraft activity, logistics facilities and command and control facilities across various locations in Syria. It was not confined to one general geographic region, but included al-Kisweh, the surrounding areas around Damascus and to the north and east of that.