Syria’s air defenses confronted an aerial “aggression” from Israel that targeted an air base in the country's center on Tuesday, Syrian state media reported quoting a military official. Three Iranians or fighters in Iranian-backed militias were killed in the strike and several others are in critical condition, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The official quoted by the state news agency SANA said the attack targeted the T-4 air base in Homs province shortly after 10 p.m. local time. The official said the attack only caused material damage to the base, saying most rockets were intercepted while only four landed in the targeted area.
There was no immediate Israeli comment. Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on Syria over the past years but it rarely comments on what it targets.
Israel is widely believed to have been behind airstrikes mainly targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria that have joined the country’s war fighting alongside the government.
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 56
In June, Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles were fired toward T-4, a day after Israel struck Syrian targets in retaliation for rocket fire toward the Golan Heights. Two people were said to have died in the strike, and two more were wounded.
According to a military source cited by Syrian media, Syrian air defenses "intercepted" some of the missiles. The assault had hit several buildings, including ammunition warehouses and equipment that was stored at the T-4 airbase.
The T-4 base has been targeted by the Israel Air Force in the past. It is home to Syrian regime forces, as well as an Iranian Revolutionary Guards contingent and Russian air forces. An Iranian cargo 747 plane flew to the Syrian base three times over before the strike, supposedly unloading shipments from Tehran.
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The attack on Tuesday comes during heightened tension after the recent escalation between the U.S. and Iran, Damascus' main ally in the region. A U.S. airstrike in Baghdad killed Iran's top general earlier in January. Gen. Qassim Soleimani was the main architect of Iran's policy in Syria, where thousands of allied fighters fought alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in the country's civil war.
Last year, Russia announced that it had delivered the S-300 air defense system to Syria. Russia, too, is a key ally of Assad, and its intervention in the civil war, beginning in 2015, turned the tide in his favor.