(April 17, 2018 / Israel Hayom) The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday revealed new information about the deployment of Iranian air defenses in Syria, further exposing Tehran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in the war-torn country.
Tensions between Israel and Iran have been steadily escalating since an Iranian drone that breached Israeli airspace on Feb. 10 was shot down by the Israeli Air Force.
An Israeli official confirmed to The New York Times Monday that it was the IAF that struck the T4 air base in Homs, last week. Seven members of Iran’s elite Quds Force were killed in the strike, including the commander of its drone unit in Syria.
Israeli officials said the drone, which the IDF found had been weaponized and on an offensive mission, was launched from T4.
Fuming over the strike, Iran has vowed to exact vengeance on Israel.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Monday that “Israel will receive a blow for what it did at the T4 base. The days when the Zionist regime would hit and run are over. … I suggest to the Israelis to refrain from foolish steps if they want to continue their treacherous existence,” he warned.
The IDF said Tuesday that the deployment of Iranian air defenses in Syria was personally supervised by Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, one of the most powerful military figures in the Iranian regime.
Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and it has lent his forces significant logistical, technical and financial support in their war against the rebels.
According to the United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, the Iranian government spends at least $6 billion annually on maintaining Assad’s government. Independent researchers believe Iran’s support of Assad’s regime amounts to over double that sum.
Israeli defense officials said that the majority of Iran’s military support is delivered to Syria under the guise of humanitarian aid.
Since 2015, the Iranian Air Force has been conducting routine flights into Syria, using military cargo planes disguised as civilian Iranian airlines to transport weapons and combat personnel, including drone operators.
The Quds Force is said to be focused on establishing air defenses and drone operations in Syria, so it can use them to launch direct offensives against Israel.
The IDF believes that any direct clash between Israel and Iran on the northern border would be carried out by the Revolutionary Guards’ air force rather than by ground troops.