With Syria Strike, Israel Signals to Iran It Had Crossed a Red Line

Israeli intelligence suggests Quds Force, whose positions were targeted in the latest airstrike, pays Syrian residents of the Golan Heights to plant explosives along the Israeli border

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Israeli army forces in the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020.
Israeli army forces in the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel sees the Iranian actions in the Syrian Golan Heights — which reached new heights with the deployment of two cells to lay explosive devices on the Israeli side of the border — 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.

Israeli intelligence identified the Quds Force as responsible for operating the cells, whose members are residents of Syrian villages near the border. Members of the Revolutionary Guards initiate the operations, supply the bombs and send off the cells, but the actual mission is carried out by Syrian citizens, who are paid.

In August, the Israel Defense Forces killed four Syrians who had laid several similar explosive devices in the same area. This time the area was cleansed a short time after the bombs were laid and the military response followed a few hours later. Some of the latest Israeli attacks were directed at the Quds Force.

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.”

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

“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.