Israel must continue its campaign to disrupt Iranian efforts to smuggle high-quality weapons into Syria and the hands of Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon, the head of research at an Israeli defense watchdog organization told JNS on Thursday.

Speaking a day after international media reports said Israeli fighter jets struck a target in Syria’s Palmyra region, near the Syrian T4 military airbase, Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri, head of the research department at the Alma Center, noted that the campaign between the wars—the term used by Israel’s defense establishment to describe ongoing efforts to disrupt adversaries from building up their force—“will always be there. It is based on precise intelligence. So long as this exists, the campaign must continue, and not be stopped. Essentially, it is a question of who will blink first.”

Israel must continue “mowing the grass,” stated Beeri, who served for 20 years in the Military Intelligence Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces.

It must continue to “disrupt attempts by Iran to smuggle weaponry. Sometimes, this can be done at high intensity and sometimes at lower intensity,” he added.

The ability of Israel’s disruption campaign to “adapt itself to reality and be relevant” is vital, stressed Beeri.

A Britain-based war monitor said the alleged Israeli airstrike on Wednesday night killed one Syrian soldier and three pro-Iranian fighters. The Syrian state news agency SANA said the attack occurred in Palmyra, and that a soldier was killed and three other people wounded.

“At around 23:34 (2034 GMT) the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression … on the area of Palmyra targeting a communication tower and several positions in its vicinity,” the source told SANA.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the United Kingdom, said multiple Iranian positions were hit, including a communications tower near the T4 airbase.

Last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an Israeli missile strike on the same airbase killed two pro-Iranian foreign fighters, while SANA reported that six soldiers were wounded in that incident.

Satellite imagery confirmed strikes on the T4 airport from last week’s attack, said Beeri.

Addressing the Oct. 13 incident, Beeri said reports were less detailed about the exact location of the strikes, though noted the Palmyra is the “heart of the radical Iranian Shi’ite axis’s ground corridor.”

The ground corridor, used for moving weapons and personnel into Syria by land, begins at the Albukamaal Syrian border city with Iraq, where Iran built its Imam Ali base and which has been hit multiple times in recent years. The corridor then moves north along Syrian roads, and then west to Palmyra and Homs, said Beeri.

“Homs is a central area for weapons storage. From there, the weapons are moved to Lebanon,” he said.

However, the T4 airbase could also receive weapons from Damascus International Airport via roads, used to move the Iranian military cargo, he added.

The T4 airbase made headlines in February 2018 when the IAF struck a control cabin used by Iranian IRGC members to send a drone into Israeli airspace, which was shot down by the IAF.

“T4 is known as a storage center,” said Beeri, including for short-term and longer-term storage of Iranian weapons that arrive via the ground corridor.

At the same time, an IRGC-owned Qeshm Air flight landed in Damascus on Wednesday, hours before the attack, according to reports, and that may have been linked to the attack. “We do not know what was on-board this aircraft and whether forces on the ground did not want to store in Damascus, due to a working assumption that it would be immediately attacked. The cargo may have been moved north to Palmyra from Damascus,” explained Beeri.

The attack could have been aimed at removing dangerous weapons from the sector, he said, and those reportedly killed may have been in the near vicinity of the weapons, either to guard, move or operate them.

Iran and its forces ‘must always feel pursued’

Pro-Iranian militias responded on Thursday by threatening a “very harsh” response to the airstrikes.

A statement released by the “Syrian Allies Operations Room” said the strike occurred from the direction of Jordan and the Al-Tanf border region of Syria.

Beeri said such threats should not be dismissed, and that past experience has shown that these are not always empty vows.

“The threats are not unusual. Over the years, there have been repeated threats by Shi’ite militias in Syria, and in some cases, they have followed through on them,” he said. The latest example is the firing of rockets by Shi’ite militias in Syria at Israel’s southern Golan region during the May escalation with Gaza.

Nevertheless, Iran’s intention to build a war machine in Syria must be disrupted, emphasized Beeri: Iran and its forces in Syria “must always feel pursued.”

JNS

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