A senior Israeli military official admitted to NYT columnist Thomas Friedman that Israel targeted the Iranian drone command center at the T4 air base in Syria last week, an airstrike which killed 14 people, half of whom were Iranians active in Syria.
"It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” said the Israeli military official quoted by Haaretz.
The admission validates accusations by Russia and the Syrian command - until now unconfirmed - which blamed Israel for the pre-dawn raid last Monday on the major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched the missiles from Lebanon's air space, and which a war-monitoring group said killed 14 people. Last week, Russia's Defense Ministry said two Israeli aircraft targeted the T4 air base in Homs province, firing eight missiles. It said Syria shot down five of them while the other three landed in the western part of the base. Syrian state TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that Israeli F-15 warplanes fired several missiles at T4.
Photos of the T4 base showed the aftermath of the airstrike.
Fast forward to today when the Israeli official said that last Monday's attack was in retaliation for an armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace in February, and "opened a new period," saying that “this is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy."
During the attack, Israel killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds force members, including Colonel Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit operating out of T4, east of Homs.
IRGC-affiliated media have thus far confirmed that 4 Iranians were killed in Israeli strikes on T-4 airbase in Syria's Homs: Col. Mehdi Dehghan, Seyyed Ammar Mousavi, Akbar Javar-Jannati and Mehdi Lotfi-Niasar. pic.twitter.com/k7vo33D7sA— FDD's Iran Project (@FDD_Iran) April 9, 2018
Israel has been furious at Iranian forces operating out of Syria ever since February, when an Israeli F-16 fighter jet that carried out airstrikes on a Syrian air base was shot down after it struck targets in Syria in response to an Iranian drone that allegedly first infiltrated Israeli airforce.
#Syria Air Defense Force used S-200V Surface to Air missile to shoot-down an #Israel Air Force F-16I while was bombing an #IRGC base in Syria. The F-16 is crashed in Israel territory & its pilots ejected safely & were evacuated by S-70A. #IRGC has used UAV to check F-16 wreckage. pic.twitter.com/qPkjzT7iPf— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) February 10, 2018
The downed Iranian drone was armed with explosives and the Israeli military claimed that it was on its way to carry out an attack.
According to IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the drone’s flight path and Israel’s “intelligence and operational analysis of the parts of the Iranian unmanned vehicle” indicated that “the aircraft was carrying explosives” and that its mission was “an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.”
Needless to say, Iran was not happy with Israel's admission, which prompted Tehran to vow retaliation against Israel for the attack, while the commander of Iran's army ground forces, commander Heidari, said a date has been set for Israel's destruction:
- IRAN SAYS TO RETALIATE AGAINST ISRAEL FOR AIRBASE ATTACK IN SYRIA: AL-KHABBAR
- IRAN ARMY GROUND FORCES COMMANDER HEIDARI SAYS DATE HAS BEEN SET FOR ISRAEL'S DESTRUCTION: MEHR
Meanwhile, however, it appears that Israel is continuing its now daily attacks on Syria:
- UNIDENTIFIED MISSILES ENTERED SYRIAN SKIES, SANA REPORTS
- UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT OVER DAMASCUS SYRIA: LOCAL REPORTS
- HOMS SYRIA MISSILE STRIKES BEING CARRIED OUT BY ISRAEL: LOCAL REPORTS
- AIR DEFENSES RESPOND TO MISSILE ATTACK ON SHAYRAT AIRBASE IN HOMS AND SHOOT THEM DOWN -SYRIAN TV
And now we await what, if any, response Iran may have to this latest Israeli attack.