‘Iranian soldiers killed’ in Israeli airstrike on Syrian army base
July 24, 2020
Iranian soldiers were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria carried out just hours after Donald Trump’s announcement that the US was pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, according to monitors.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli jets had targeted a weapons depot near al-Kiswah, a Syrian military base south of Damascus that is used by Iranian forces. It has been hit by suspected Israeli strikes in the past.
At least nine pro-regime fighters, "including members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other pro-Iranian Shia militiamen” were killed in the strike, the Observatory said.
Israel’s military refused to comment, as is its policy when it comes to operations in Syria. The strike appeared to be the latest round of an increasingly bloody shadow war being fought by Israel in an effort to stop Iran from building up its military presence in Syria.
At least seven Iranians were killed in a suspected Israeli strike on the T4 airbase in central Syria in April. Israel’s military has been on high alert since then in anticipation of potential Iranian retaliation.
Those tensions will only rise further after Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the 2015 nuclear and reimpose sanctions on Iran.
Shortly before Mr Trump’s announcement, Israel’s military said it was seeing signs of “irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria” and ordered Israeli civilians in the Golan Heights to ready their bomb shelters.
“Defence systems have been deployed and IDF troops are on high alert for an attack,” a spokesman said Tuesday night. “The IDF is prepared for various scenarios and warns that any aggression against Israel will be met with a severe response.”
Reserve troops from military intelligence, air defence, and the home front units were called up, according to Israeli media, and Israeli school trips to the Golan Heights were cancelled.
By Wednesday morning, the situation appeared to have calmed slightly. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) lowered its alert level on the Golan Heights, the mountainous area Israel captured from Syria in 1967.
Schools were opened as normal and farmers were told they could go about their work.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, left for a planned trip to Moscow – a sign that Israel’s government did not believe that an immediate escalation was imminent.
"I am now leaving for an important meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so. In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination between the Russian military and the IDF."
Video: Vladimir Putin meets Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow
Mr Netanyahu said Mr Trump had made a “brave and correct decision” to withdraw from the agreement.
"Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal,” Mr Netanyahu said in a speech moments after Mr Trump’s address.
The Israeli leader has consistently warned that the deal would pave the way for Iran to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons and called the agreement a “recipe for disaster”.