Israel's Latest Syria Strike Targeted Iranian Unit That Paid Locals to Plant Explosives on Border

Unit 840 of Iran's Quds Force finances planned and financed latest operations, Israeli intel suggests

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A general view picture shows a security fence near the border area between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020.
A general view picture shows a security fence near the border area between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020.Credit: Hamad Almakt/Reuters
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

An Israeli airstrike in Syria Wednesday morning targeted an Iranian unit that Israel says is responsible for planting explosives on the Israeli side of the countries' border on two separate occasions.

Unit 840, a subdivision of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, operates in both the Damascus area and in the Syrian Golan. Israeli intelligence suggests the unit is behind two events, one last week and one in August, in which explosives were placed on the Israeli side of the Syrian border. 

The unit funded and supplied the weapons used in the attempted attacks, while the explosives themselves were laid by local Syrian citizens who were paid by Iran. 

In August, Israeli soldiers killed the four Syrians who placed the explosives. During last week's incident, the Israeli military did not strike the cell that planted the explosives, but struck a number of other targets, among them bases of the Quds Force cell that deployed the Syrians.

Israel views these Iranian actions in the Syrian Golan Heights as crossing a red line, and served as the background for the decision to respond with relatively broad air strikes early Wednesday morning.

The Israeli attack, which came after Tuesday’s discovery of the second line of explosive devices in the southern Golan Heights in three-and-a-half months, hit the local command headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the Damascus airport and other targets linked to the Iranians.

The IDF spokesperson, Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman, confirmed that Israel had attacked eight targets, including “arms depots, military headquarters and compounds and surface-to-air missile batteries.”

“Syria allows Iranians to continue to establish themselves in its territory, including in the southern Golan Heights,” Zilberman said on Wednesday.

Israel rarely claims responsibility for attacks in Syria attributed to its military.

Earlier on Wednesday, Syrian state television said Israeli missiles had flown over the Syrian Golan Heights and conducted raids around Damascus. Live footage showed blasts across the skies of the capital.

State-run Syrian news agency SANA reported that Syrian air defenses intercepted the Israeli attack over Damascus. Three military personnel were killed and one was injured in “Israeli aggression” on Syria, SANA quoted a Syrian military source as saying.

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