Israel says it struck positions of Iran’s elite Quds Force


UPDATE 0915 GMT: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says Israel struck “all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria”

Lieberman repeated the military’s line that Israeli forces do not seek escalation with Iran, but will not let the Islamic Republic turn Syria into a “forward base” against Israel.

In its most significant intervention in Syria’s 7-year conflict, Israel attacked “dozens” of targets of the Assad regime and Iranian forces overnight.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed Thursday morning that it set back Iranian military capabilities in Syria by “many months” with the attacks. The IDF said the operations followed the firing of about 20 rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Israeli military said that, while degrading the Iranian force in Syria, it is not seeking an escalation of hostilities with Tehran.

See also An Impending War Between Israel and Iran in Syria?

Pro-Assad forces appeared to launch rockets in retaliation for two Israeli strikes on the T-4 base in central Syria — where Iranian personnel are stationed and reportedly have a control center for drone flights — since February, and a claimed Israeli missile attack on the Kisweh base south of Damascus on Tuesday.

Several Revolutionary Guards, including a commander, were slain at T-4, while Wednesday’s missiles are said to have killed about 15 military personnel at the Kisweh base, including eight Iranians.

The IDF said the rockets were fired by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ al-Quds Force. While Israel has blamed Iran for drone overflights of Israeli territory, it was the first time the IDF attributed an attack directly to the Islamic Republic.

Claimed footage of the launch of the rockets:

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said no Grad or Fajr-5 rockets struck Israeli territory. Four projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the rest fell in Syria.

The IDF attacked Quds Forces’ intelligence centers, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts, and logistics centers, as well as the rocket launcher that started the exchange. Among locations given were the al-Kiswah base, an Iranian compound “north of Damascus”, storage warehouses at Damascus International Airport, and observation posts and munitions in the zone near the Golan Heights.

A pro-Syrian opposition journalist adds that the Quds Forces headquarters in southern Damascus was targeted:

“All of the targets that we engaged were effectively destroyed,” Conricus asserted.

While saying that Israel is not seeking a confrontation with Tehran, the spokesman said, “The IDF will not tolerate this Iranian presence on the Golan and in Syria.”

Syrian State news agency SANA initially claimed that air defenses had intercepted “scores” of “hostile Israeli missiles”. It later acknowledged that military bases, an arms depot, and military radar were struck although “most” missiles had not reached their targets.

Iran’s State outlet Press TV played down the clashes, saying that “several” Israeli missiles had been mentioned. It did mention any Iranian targets.

Earlier Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation in Syria, including “ensuring ongoing military cooperation”.

Israeli military sources said they informed Russian counterparts in advance of the strikes, and Russia’s forces offered no resistance to the operations. Moscow is also continuing to delay any provision of advanced S-300 air defense missile systems to the Assad regime.

Israel and Russia have maintained a de facto cooperation over Syria since September 2015, when Netanyahu accepted Russia’s military intervention to prop up the Assad regime and Putin assured that Iranian-led militia and Hezbollah would not move into the area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Russia’s English-language State media limits itself this morning to recycling the claim of pro-Assad outlets of “dozens” of Israeli missiles downed.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov tipped off the Kremlin’s line in a cautious statement, with no criticism of Israel:

All of this is very alarming and raising concerns. It is necessary to deescalate tensions. We are verifying all the details now.

We’ve got contacts with all parties.

Pro-Assad Attack Kills 10 Family Members in Idlib Province

The latest pro-Assad attacks on Idlib Province in northwest Syria have killed 10 members of one family.

The White Helmets civil defense reported four raids on homes in the town of Maarzita in southern Idlib.

Pro-Assad forces — enabled by Russian airstrikes which broke Moscow’s proclaimed “de-escalation zone” — took a slice of southeast Idlib during the winter before redeploying forces for the capture of East Ghouta near Damascus.

While a series of Turkish observation posts have deterred further ground assaults, Russian and regime warplanes have periodically hit civilian targets across the province, causing scores of casualties.