Iran Clash: Israeli Intel Chiefs Say This Round Is Over, but Long-term Strife Will Continue

High alert in northern Israel expected to go on for several days ■ Israel beefs up security around embassies abroad for fear of Iranian attack

An Israeli soldier stands next to tanks in the Golan Heights, Israel May 10, 2018.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

Another clash with Iran in Syria is unlikely, intelligence officials told ministers on Thursday, after the intensity of the air force strikes on Iranian targets the night before.

However, the high alert in the north is expected to continue for several days. At the same time, Israel is beefing up security around Israeli embassies abroad for fear of an Iranian attack.

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Military sources said Wednesday night’s attack damaged Iran’s deployment in Syria, also taking out a significant part of Syria’s aerial defenses that had already been hit in February.

However, IDF officers believe it’s too early to determine whether Iran will reconsider its plan to establish a military base in Syria. It is possible, they said, that Iran will refrain from immediate retaliation due to its recent failures and Israel’s intelligence advantage, as shown Wednesday night.

Israeli officials note that Russia has reacted largely with indifference to the latest developments, noting that it has not intervened apart from issuing a call for calm.

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After midnight on Wednesday, the Air Force launched extensive strikes in Syria, in what military sources called the largest operation carried out in that country since 1974.

“Within two hours we attacked dozens of targets, including the launchers, Iranian intelligence sites, weapon stockpiles and logistic sites in Damascus and in the north and south of Syria,” the officer said.

“During the strike dozens of surface-to-air missiles were fired at us. Every battery that fired at our planes was destroyed in the operation,” he said.

The officer said Israel’s attack was extensive, involving dozens of planes that dropped dozens of bombs. “We understood there was a planned attempt on Iran’s part to strike Israel from Syria, and although we intercepted the missiles we took a grim view of it.”

He said Israel has been acting for a long time in the region and warned the Syrians’ explicitly that it will continue to attack the Iranians on their territory, “and that they will also be attacked if they act against us,” he said.

Addressing reports that the Syrians intercepted Israel Air Force missiles, the officer said: “Everything we wanted to attack we did, and it was destroyed. The aerial defense in Syria is one of the most crowded in the world, and when we go into such an operation we take into consideration that there may be interceptions, and that they can bring down some weapons, but how many of them they can bring down, what kinds of weapons and the real numbers – that I will not detail.”

On the night before this latest clash in Syria, Iran was about to launch a strike against Israel, but Israel learned of the plan and attacked the missile launchers before they were activated, a senior Air Force officer said.

“The attack order had already been given, but with the help of accurate intelligence we struck the launchers before the order was carried out,” the officer said.