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11 killed in Israeli airstrikes against Iranian bases in Syria

Published by Yahoo on Mon, 21 Jan 2019


Israeli airstrikes in Syria killed 11 Iranian and pro-regime fighters on Monday, in the most serious direct confrontation between Iran and Israel in the last six months. Israeli warplanes attacked bases belonging to Iran's elite Quds Force after an Iranian missile was fired from Syria towards the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights on Sunday, the Israeli military said.The Iranian missile was reportedly fired in response to Israeli air raids carried out inside Syria earlier in the day on Sunday. By Monday morning, the situation appeared calm but Israeli forces were on high alert and both sides were watching for any signs of a fresh escalation. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said the Israeli attacks had killed 11 people, including Iranian troops, Hizbollah fighters, and at least two Syrians. It was the highest death toll from Israeli raids since May 2018, when waves of Israeli airstrikes killed at least 23 Iranian and Syria fighters. Israeli army Merkava tanks gather in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on January 20, 2019 Credit: JALAA MAREY/AFP Israel is determined to continue its campaign to stop Iran from entrenching in Syria despite Donald Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from the country. It warned the Syrian regime that it 'was putting itself at risk' by allowing Iranian forces to use its territory for strikes against Israel. The head of Iran's air force, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, responded that his forces were 'impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth'. The escalation appears to have begun on Sunday afternoon when Israeli aircraft carried out a rare daylight operation against targets inside Syria. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) refused to comment on whether they struck first. At around 3pm Iranian forces fired a midrange surface-to-surface missile from Damascus towards the Golan Heights, where thousands of Israelis were skiing on Mount Hermon, according to the IDF. The Iranian missile was shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defence system. Israeli skiers recorded video of a pair of interceptor missiles streaking over the ski slopes towards their target. There were no injuries on the Israeli side. 'We saw that as an unacceptable attack by Iranian troops - not proxies, not Shia militias, not Syrian forces, but Iranian troops firing an Iranian-made missile,' said Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli spokesman. What is believed to be guided missiles are seen in the sky during what is reported to be an attack in Damascus, Syria Credit: ReutersHe said Israeli intelligence showed the missile strike was 'premeditated' in that Iran had brought the missile to Syria with the intent of firing it at Israel, rather than using it in the internal Syrian conflict. Israel launched three waves of airstrikes against Quds Force targets, including their main weapons depot at Damascus airport, which they used to supply their own troops and Hizbollah fighters, the IDF said. Israel said it had informed the Syrian regime via Russia that it was targeting Iranian bases and warned Syrian forces not to fire on Israeli aircraft. But Syrian air defence systems nonetheless fired dozens of missiles at the attacking Israeli jets. Israel said it then struck Syrian regime targets in response.'This regime is putting itself at risk by allowing the Iranians extensive and almost unlimited use of Syrian facilities,' the IDF said. 'Syria yesterday paid a price for allowing Iran to plan and conduct attacks from its soil.' Israel has carried out thousands of strikes against Iranian and Hizbollah targets inside Syria as part of its effort to keep Iran from entrenching its forces in the Arab state.The attacks have mostly been carried out in secret but Israel has become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, with both Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and senior military officers referring publicly to the strikes. So far, Israel has been able to carry out its operations without sparking a full-blown war but international observers fret that one day a miscalculation by either side could lead a much larger conflict.
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