Israel Strikes Syria, Says It Foiled Iranian Drone Attack

Israel claims thwarting major Iranian drone attack from Syria, but Tehran denies ■ Three deaths reported ■ Netanyahu: 'Iran has no immunity anywhere'

Still from footage showing surface to air missiles launched by Syrian military in Homs, Syria July 1, 2019.
OMAR SANADIKI / Reuters

In a rare confirmation, Israel said it struck in Syria on Saturday to thwart a drone attack by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force. Syrian opposition activists reported three deaths in the attack.

The Israeli army said the foiled attack entailed launching several drones at targets in northern Israel.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander denied on Sunday that Iranian targets had been hit in Israeli air strikes in Syria, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

"This is a lie and not true. ..Israel and the United States do not have the power to attack Iran's various centers, and our (military) advisory centers have not been harmed," said Revolutionary Guards Major General Mohsen Rezaei, who is also the secretary of a powerful state body, ILNA reported.  

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition organization, said two Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian were killed in the attack.

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Later overnight Hezbollah claimed two Israeli drones crashed in Beirut.

In anticipation of possible retaliatory rocket fire, the Israel Defense Forces  deployed air defenses in northern Israel. Authorities, however, have not issued any special safety instructions for local residents. 

Earlier, Syrian state television reported explosions above Damascus and said air defenses had intercepted "hostile targets."

Following the IDF's confirmation of the strike, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I repeat: Iran has no immunity anywhere...I have given the instruction to prepare for any scenario. We will continue to act against Iran and its proxies with determination and responsibility on behalf of Israel's security."

The latest strike comes amid accusations of Israel conducting airstrikes against Iranian targets in Iraq in recent weeks. 

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said the strike targeted Iranian forces, Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite militias, and equipment. He added that the cell planning the attack received orders from the Iranians and had initially planned to launch the drone attack on Thursday but was thwarted by the Israel Defense Forces. The military said the airstrike was conducted in a village southeast of Damascus.

Over the past year, a number of strikes targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in Syria were attributed to Israel.

Most recently, Syrian state media reported that an Israeli missile had struck western Quneitra province in early August.

On Friday the New York Times published a report citing senior American intelligence officials who said that Israel was responsible for several strikes in Iraq. The report also quoted a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official who said that Israel was specifically responsible for a July 19 attack north of Baghdad on a base he told the Times was being used by Iran's Revolutionary Guards "to transfer weapons to Syria."