Israel yesterday launched air strikes on Syria, killing three soldiers and hitting Iranian targets in what the Israeli military called a retaliatory attack for explosive devices that it found along its northern border.
An Israel Defense Forces statement said that its fighter jets hit “military targets belonging to the Iranian [Revolutionary Guards’] Quds Force and the Syrian armed forces,” in overnight strikes.
The targets included “storage facilities, headquarters and military compounds,” as well as “Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries,” the army statement said.
Syrian state-run SANA news agency said that the strikes killed three of its soldiers and injured another.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since a civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, as well as government troops.
The Jewish state rarely acknowledges individual strikes, but has done so when responding to what it describes as aggression inside Israeli territory.
The Israeli military on Tuesday said that it had discovered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on its side of a border crossing into Syria.
Israel and Syria, neighbors still technically at war, have a border along the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War.
The IEDs “were placed by a Syrian squad led by Iranian forces,” the Israeli military statement said.
Iran has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime throughout the civil war that erupted after the brutal repression of anti-government protests and has killed more than 380,000 people.
The Israeli military said that it “holds the Syrian regime responsible for all the actions perpetrated from its territory and will continue to operate as necessary against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”
The air strikes came hours before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to land in Israel for talks — including on Iran — in what is likely to be his last visit to the staunch ally before US President Donald Trump leaves office.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Trump his country’s strongest-ever ally in the White House, has heaped praised on the administration for its hardline approach toward Iran.
Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iran has included sanctions, and the scrapping of a nuclear deal agreed between Tehran and world powers during former US president Barack Obama’s administration.
Israeli experts have said that Netanyahu is concerned that US president-elect Joe Biden would seek to re-engage Iran diplomatically, possibly by restoring the nuclear deal.
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