After Striking Iranian Targets in Syria, Israel Claims Responsibility for Previous Attacks

In first, Israeli army admits it bombarded the T4 Syrian air base in April, after Iran began delivering long range ground-to-air missiles to it

T4 Syrian Air Force Base
Google / DigitalGlobe

Israel claimed responsibility on Friday for several recent airstrikes in Syria following Thursday's extensive bombardment on Iranian targets, the most extensive strikes in decades.

The Israeli army confirmed it bombed the T4 Syrian air base in April, as well as the other strikes in Syria following the T4 attack that were previously attributed to Israel by foreign sources. So far, Israel remained vague as to this strike and several others in Syria.

Israel attacked the T4 base after Iran delivered to it ground-to-air missiles with a range of 68 miles. According to the Israeli army, this is a range that threatens extensive terrain in Israel and harms air force superiority. Following the attack, Israeli army struck several more times in Syria since the Iranians began mobilizing the missiles to various hiding places. Destruction of the Iranians long range munitions is part of Israel's effort to prevent them from establishing a presence in Syria. On several occasions, large weapon stockpiles were destroyed near the Damascus presidential palace.

The Israeli army claims that Qasem Soleimani, commander of  Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, tried to execute a response to Israeli strikes. But the attack against the Iranian arsenal hamstrung him. 24 hours before rockets were fired at the Golan Heights, the Iranians attempted to hit Israel with an artillery vehicle stationed 18 miles of Damascus, and was prepared to launch by Hezbollah militiamen. Israel discovered this and destroyed the vehicle. Following the strikes, the Iranians were forced to use relatively dated methods to fire at Israel.

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Map of targets of Israeli strike in Syria

The Israeli army said Friday that Iranian forces entering Syria allowed it to obtain operational intel which was unattainable in Iran itself. Army assessments project that Soleimani will soon try to detect the source of the intelligence leak.

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.

Israeli army 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.

>> Iran's entrenchment in Syria set back months after Israeli strike | Analysis >>

The Israeli army also believes Iran has decided not to use Hezbollah forces against Israel at this point. According to assessments, Hezbollah will prefer to attack only from Syrian soil, using a small force so it can maintain its strength in Lebanon.

Early Thursday, Israel attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in what the military said was the most extensive strike in the neighboring country in decades. The strike was carried out in response to a barrage of 20 rockets that was fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts.

The attack corresponded with early intelligence assessments by the Israeli army, which determined a launch was expected at military targets in the north of Israel, and that Iran would act in a manner which it thinks will not lead to all-out war with Israel.

Four of the rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system and the rest of the rockets exploded on Syrian territory, the military said. Israel said there were no casualties in the attack.

Israel said the targets of the retaliatory attack included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire. 

A source in the Israeli security establishment said this attack was the largest carried out by Israel since it signed a disengagement agreement with Syria in May 1974. The Israeli military warned Syria not to respond to its attack.