Claimed image from Israeli missile strikes on Iranian and Assad regime targets near Damascus, Syria, November 20, 2019

Israel’s military says it struck more than 20 Iranian and Assad regime targets early Wednesday, a day after rockets were fired from southwest Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee said the targets were positions of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the branch of the Revolutionary Guards operating in other countries, and the regime army.

Attacked sites included regime air defense systems, command centers, and weapons caches. An Iranian command center at the Damascus International Airport and logistics sites used by Iran to transport weapons were also targeted.

The Israel Defense Forces said they would continue “operating firmly and for as long as necessary” against the Iranian presence in Syria.

The statement was a rare confirmation by the IDF of its operations, indicating the seriousness of its warning against any further rocket fire into the Golan.

Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said the IDF targeted “the host, Syria, and the guest, Iran.” He continued:

We are preparing for defense and attack, and we will respond to any attempt to retaliate. We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response.

Syrian State media said at least two civilians were killed and several wounded when a building in Sasa, southwest of Damascus, was destroyed by an Israeli missile.

A video showed a Syrian anti-aircraft missile crashing into a populated area, possibly accounting for the civilian casualties.

The IDF said it notified Russia, the essential backer of the Assad regime, of the attacks through the deconfliction mechanism established by the two countries in late 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I have made clear that any who attack us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight, toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets.”

Another Escalation of Attacks?

The IDF said Tuesday that its Iron Dome missile defense system downed four rockets fired into the Golan. Syrian State TV said explosions were then heard near Damascus International Airport, but gave no details of its implication of Israeli retaliation.

Israel’s last strikes on Iranian and regime positions were in late August. But on November 12, the Israeli military reportedly targeted a senior figure in the Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad, Akram Ajouri. Syrian State agencies and Islamic Jihad said the strike in southwest Damascus killed Ajouri’s son and another person, said to be Ajouri’s bodyguard.

At the same time, Israel killed the Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu el-Atta in a missile attack inside Gaza. The assassination sparked rocket fire into southern Israel, and Israeli assaults killing dozens of Palestinians.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Assad regime, Iranian, and Hezbollah targets during Syria’s 101-month conflict. The attacks initially focused on Iranian transfers of weapons and missiles to Hezbollah and on the movement of Iranian and Hezbollah personnel to southwest Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and expanded across the country in the past 18 months as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded complete Iranian military withdrawal.

The Israeli forces have been focusing on Iranian bases and personnel, repeatedly hitting targets near Damascus and in central and northwest Syria. Those killed reportedly include Iranians directing drone attacks into Israel.

Since the summer, the strikes in Syria have been linked to missile attacks in Lebanon and Iraq on Hezbollah and Iranian-supported militia.