Iranian soldiers were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria carried out just hours after Donald Trump’s announcement that the US was pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, according to monitors quoted by Telegraph. The report did not specify how many missiles were fired.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli jets had targeted a weapons depot near al-Kiswah, a Syrian military base south of Damascus that is used by Iranian forces. It has been hit by suspected Israeli strikes in the past. At least nine pro-regime fighters, “including members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other pro-Iranian Shia militiamen” were killed in the strike.
“Nine fighters belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or pro-Iranian Shiite militias have been killed” Rami Abd el-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
An official with the Iran-led regional alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad said the strike targeted a Syrian army position but killed a Syrian man and his wife who happened to be passing by in their car. He said there were jets in the sky but it was likely the position was targeted by surface-to-surface missiles from the Golan Heights.
Israel’s military refused to comment, as is its policy when it comes to operations in Syria. The strike appeared to be the latest round of an increasingly bloody shadow war being fought by Israel in an effort to stop Iran from building up its military presence in Syria, Times of Israel reports. The alleged strike came hours after the Israeli military said it had identified “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria” and called for local governments in the Golan Heights to open their bomb shelters. Rahman said the strike targeted an “arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranians.”
An official with the Iran-led axis of resistance told the Associated Press the strike targeted a Syrian army position and caused only material damage. Videos from the scene, which was posted on social media, showed the moment of the strike’s impact and its aftermath. Surveillance footage showed a blast of white light as the bombs hit, followed by what appeared to be secondary explosions, supporting the claim that the targets of the strike were missiles. Cellphone videos also showed trucks burning and fires raging in the direction of the alleged Iranian base. Following the attack, Lebanese media reported that Israeli jets were flying sorties over the country’s southern coast.
The reported attack came an hour after President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, calling Tehran a main exporter of terrorism in the region, Time adds. On Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “fully supports” the United States’ withdrawal from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran. His statement came as the Israeli-occupied section of the Golan Heights was placed on high alert due to “irregular activity by Iranian forces” across the demarcation line in Syria.
Following Trump’s announcement, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met with the heads of Israel’s armed services in the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters to discuss the security situation, his office said. Earlier on Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Israel also prohibited American government employees from visiting the Golan Heights without approval in light of the security situation on the border.
“The IDF is ready and prepared for a variety of scenarios and warns that any action against Israel will be answered with a fierce retaliation,” the army said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned Tuesday that “Syria will be Iran’s Vietnam” if Tehran continues on its current track, adding that the Islamic regime is doomed to collapse due to its “megalomaniac” policies, Times of Israel says. Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, the security cabinet member said:
“If the Iranians continue with their miserable moves, they will find out fast enough that Syria has become their Vietnam.”
Bennett told the security conference that Israel may be compelled to take military action against Iran in order to protect itself.
“I’m not suggesting to attack Iran directly at this stage, but I am taking action to ensure Israel has a lasting capability to deter Iran and its citizens from harming Israel. In light of the megalomaniac Iranian policies of recent years, and in light of Iran’s social, economic, political and military situation, I am nearing the conclusion that Iran’s Ayatollah regime is living on borrowed time and is doomed to collapse,” he added. “With its current behavior, this regime will not survive because it directs its national resources toward adventures with no regard for the interest of the Iranian people.”
His comments came amid escalating tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran as the Islamic Republic has sought to expand its foothold in neighboring Syria, raising fears it could use bases for attacking Israel. During his speech, Bennett likened Tehran to the “head of the octopus” and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere to the octopus’s “tentacles.”
Global Times reports that a video released by the IDF showed soldiers setting up the Iron Dome, Patriot, and Arrow missile defense systems. The military does not generally reveal its deployment of air defenses. Its decision to do so on Tuesday night was likely an effort to both reassure residents of northern Israel and warn Iran that the IDF was prepared to counter a missile attack.
Iran has vowed to retaliate to recent Israeli strikes in Syria targeting Iranian outposts in the country. They include an attack last month on Syria’s T4 air base in Homs province that killed seven Iranian military personnel, for which Tehran has vowed to retaliate. On April 30, Israel was said to have struck government outposts in northern Syria, killing more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians.
On Monday, Iran’s army chief of staff warned that the regime would respond to any Israeli aggression “at an appropriate time,” as the countries continued to trade threats amid spiraling tensions.
“If the enemy casts a covetous eye on our interests or conducts [even] a slight act of aggression, the Islamic Republic will give an appropriate response at an appropriate time,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said according to regime-affiliated Press TV.