Israeli fighter planes struck at Iranian targets in Syria early Wednesday, reportedly killing three military personnel in what Israel said was retaliation for explosive devices planted along the contested border between the two countries.
Israeli “jets struck military targets belonging to the Iranian Quds force and the Syrian Armed Forces,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “During the strike, storage facilities, headquarters and military compounds were struck. In addition, Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries were struck.”
In a briefing with reporters, an IDF spokesperson said the strikes hit eight targets between the border and Damascus, including a reported Iranian military complex near Damascus International Airport.[Israel says it hit Hezbollah posts in Lebanon after taking fire]
Syrian state media reported that a 30-minute attack launched from the Golan Heights shortly after 3 a.m. killed three soldiers, injured one and “caused material damage.” Syrian air defenses intercepted “a number of rockets,” the report said.
On Tuesday, the IDF reported finding caches of improvised explosive devises near the Israeli side of a U.N.-monitored buffer zone separating Israel and Syria. Combat engineers disarmed the devices, which Israel contends were placed by local Syrian fighters under the command of the Iranian Quds Force.
Israel contends that Iranian cells in Syria have been trying to booby trap areas of the border for several months, prompting increased foot patrols and drone reconnaissance in the region.
In August, Israeli forces detected an attempt by militants from Syria to plant explosives along a security fence in the zone, and attacked them with ground fire and airstrikes, killing all four members of the squad. Israel launched an air assault in Syrian territory shortly after that incident as well.
“The IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for all the actions perpetrated from its territory and will continue to operate as necessary against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, which threatens regional stability,” the IDF said in its statement Wednesday.
Tensions have spiked along the militarized border that runs between Israel, Syria and Lebanon following an Israeli strike earlier this year in Syria that killed a senior member of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Israel has also maintained a drumbeat of warnings over Iran’s activities in the area, as a backer of militant groups in the two countries and a military presence. Amid reports that the United States could launch actions against Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the closing weeks of the Trump administration, the Israeli military said it is at a heightened state of readiness along its northern border.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff, was touring the border region Tuesday when the explosive devises were discovered. It was a provocation that couldn’t be ignored, he said.
“We have been prepared for some time now for the possibility of attacks along the northern front,” Gantz said in a statement. “The IDF has the capacity and determination to respond to any scenario, whether out of Lebanon or Syria.”
Sarah Dadouch in Beirut contributed to this report.Israeli jets strike targets in Syria, nearly 24 hours after foiling attack in Golan Heights Israelis see Trump’s Syria pullout as a betrayal that could help unravel the region Israeli says it repelled incursion from Lebanon; Hezbollah denies launching attack
Photo: © Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images Israeli soldiers are pictured stationed near the northern Israeli border with Lebanon on Nov. 11,2020.