Tehran took advantage of the earthquake that devastated parts of Syria and Turkey in early February, killing tens of thousands, to smuggle weapons and military equipment, according to Reuters.
The news agency cited Western, Israeli, Iranian and Syrian sources who said that Iran used the humanitarian relief that poured into Syria after the Feb. 6 quake, the worst natural disaster in the region in a century according to the World Health Organization, as cover.
“Under the guise of shipments of earthquake aid to Syria, Israel has seen significant movements of military equipment from Iran, mainly transported in parts,” an Israeli defense official told Reuters.
The aim of the shipments was to strengthen Iran’s defenses against Israel in Syria and bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the sources said.
According to the sources, for seven weeks after the quake, Iran sent hundreds of supply flights to Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia airports under the guise of humanitarian aid. The supplies included advanced communications equipment, radar batteries and spare parts for a planned upgrade of Syria’s air defense systems.
Israel has been targeting Iranian assets in Syria for years, although rarely publicly. The regional sources said that upon learning of Iranian shipments to Syria, Israel quickly began targeted strikes.
These strikes have increased in recent weeks; on April 9 the Israel Defense Forces responded to six rockets fired towards the Golan Heights by hitting Syrian military sites as well as the launchers used in the attack.
“The IDF sees the State of Syria responsible for all activities occurring within its territory and will not allow any attempts to violate Israeli sovereignty,” the army said.