Israel strikes Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria

What happened: Yesterday the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) discovered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) laid on the Israeli side of the Syrian border.

  • Specialists from the IDF Engineering Corps were sent to neutralise the threat.
  • In response, overnight IDF fighter jets struck military targets belonging to the Iranian IRGC Quds Force and the Syrian Armed Forces.
  • During the strike, storage facilities, headquarters and military compounds were struck. In addition, Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries were destroyed.
  • Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the north of Israel yesterday and said: “We have been prepared for some time now for the possibility of attacks along the northern front. The IDF has the capacity and determination to respond to any scenario, whether out of Lebanon or Syria. A number of hours ago, explosives were discovered in the Golan Heights. I would like to state clearly: Syria is accountable for anything occurring on its territory, like the planting of these explosives, or arms smuggling … these are not things we can ignore.”
  • In a briefing this morning, IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said: “This was a powerful strike. We attacked targets near the border and all the way to the Damascus area including a central command centre of the Iranian forces deployed near the capital’s airport and a secret compound which houses high level Iranian visitors, just south of the city.” Zilberman added the attack on the compound was to send a direct message.
  • According to the UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 10 people were killed during the airstrike, including two Iranian nationals. Three of the dead were Syrian Air Defence officers, five were possibly Iranians belonging to the IRGC Quds Force and the other two were either Lebanese or Iraqi nationals. However, the Syrian regime reported that only three people were killed.

Context: According to the IDF, the IEDs were placed by a Syrian squad led by Iranian forces and “further clear proof of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”

  • The IEDs were discovered near the site of an Israeli military field hospital that had been set up to treat Syrians injured during the civil war, as part of the IDF’s Operation Good Neighbours.
  • There was a similar incident last August, when an elite IDF unit spotted four men on the Syrian side planting explosives adjacent to the border. The IDF soldiers opened fire and killed them. Following the event, IDF fighter jets and helicopters attacked military targets in southern Syria.
  • Israel is thought to have struck hundreds of targets inside Syria over the last few years in an effort to stop Iran smuggling advanced weapons systems and military entrenchment. More often Israel does not acknowledge their actions, but when responding to a specific attack (as in the case yesterday) they do.
  • This morning IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman added that Israel expects the UN to enforce the agreements between Israel and Syria, which includes a demilitarised zone on the Syrian side of the border.
  • Israeli analysts have suggested that Israel utilises events like this to eliminate threats that have concerned them for a while time.
  • Since the summer, the IDF has been on high alert for a Hezbollah attack after one of its operatives was killed in Syria in an attack attributed to Israel in July.

Looking ahead:  The Iron Dome missile defence system has been reinforced in the north, with the IDF noting it is “prepared for whatever might come next”.

  • The IDF maintains elevated readiness and is prepared for “various scenarios”.

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