Posts Tagged ‘T-4 base’

Israel conducted April 9 strike on Syrian airbase: NYT quotes Israeli military source — The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

April 16, 2018


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel maintained its official silence on Monday over its possible involvement in an April 9 air strike on a Syrian airbase after the New York Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying Israel had carried out the raid.

Syria and its main ally Russia blamed Israel for the attack, near the city of Homs, which followed reports of a poison gas attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on the rebel-held town of Douma.

Israel, which has often struck Syrian army locations during its neighbor’s seven-year civil war, has neither confirmed nor denied mounting the raid. But Israeli officials said the Tiyas air base was being used by troops from Iran and that Israel would not accept such a presence in Syria of its arch foe.

Iran’s Tansim news agency said seven Iranian military personnel had been killed in the attack, which contributed to a sharp escalation of tensions between the West and Russia.

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Damage at the T4 base in Syria afer the israeli raid.

“(The Tiyas strike) was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman quoted the Israeli military source as saying.

Friedman described the seven Iranians killed as members of the Qods Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations abroad, and one of them as a commander of a drone unit.

Asked about the claim of Israeli responsibility cited in the New York Times article, which was published on Sunday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: “There is no comment at this time.”

While acknowledging that it has carried out scores of strikes in Syria against suspect Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Israel generally does not comment on specific missions.

The attack on Tiyas came days before the United States, Britain and France launched 105 missiles targeting what Washington said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for the suspected poison gas attack.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons.

Israeli soldiers taking part in a training session last week in the Golan Heights.CreditJalaa Marey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Despite the Israeli source’s comment to the New York Times that the killing of Iranians at Tiyas was unprecedented for Israeli missions in Syria, a 2015 air strike there that Hezbollah blamed on Israel killed an Iranian general along with several of the Lebanese guerrillas.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones

See also:

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel



What Did Israel Attack in Syria: Air Force Compound Under Exclusive Iranian Control

April 11, 2018

The base, known as T4, is home to Russian and Syrian contingents; Israel assesses that Tehran’s activity is known to Assad but that he doesn’t halt it despite the risk to his forces

The Syrian airbase near Homs that sustained an airstrike Monday night is where Iran is trying to set up a large air force compound under its exclusive control.

Syria, Iran and Russia all blamed Israel for the strike, which killed at least four advisors from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force. Arab media reports said one was a colonel with a senior position in the Revolutionary Guards’ drone operation in Syria. The Lebanese television station Al-Manar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, reported seven Iranians killed, and the true number could be even greater.

 Image result for T4 air base, after israel attack, hangar, photos, April 2018

In addition to the Revolutionary Guards, the large base, known as T4, hosts contingents of the Syrian and Russian air forces. The Iranians, who operate independently, are relatively far away from the Russians; they control the base’s western and northern sides. That’s apparently why Russia’s statements specified that the airstrike hit the western side of the base.

TwitterPicture of the targeted Iranian base in Syria, according to Iranian media.
Picture of the targeted Iranian base in Syria, according to Iranian media.Fars News Agency

On February 10, after an Iranian drone was downed inside Israeli territory, the Israeli air force bombed the drone’s command post, located at T4. According to foreign media reports, that strike also killed some Iranians, though that time, Iran itself didn’t announce the deaths.

Both strikes, coupled with a series of international media reports quoting “Western intelligence officials,” reveal that Iran is trying to establish a large-scale drone program in Syria as part of its effort to expand its military presence there.

But alongside Russia’s protests to Israel over the fact that it views both strikes as endangering its personnel, there is also apparently some tension between Russia and Iran. American intelligence sources say that Iran even moved its people from T4 to a Syrian airbase near Palmyra, far away from the area where Russia operates, for several weeks. It’s possible that the Russians threatened to stop arms shipments from Iran to Damascus if Iran didn’t do so.

>> Israel is now directly confronting Iran in Syria | Analysis 

Nevertheless, Iran recently returned to T4 and continues to deploy its Revolutionary Guards elsewhere in central Syria, including near the Damascus international airport. Israel believes all this has been done with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s knowledge, and that he hasn’t tried to dissuade the Iranians from such activities, even though they put his own forces at risk.

The T-4 base, near Palmyra, that was attacked.
The T-4 base, near Palmyra, that was attacked.Google / DigitalGlobe

Israel doesn’t yet have concrete evidence that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons to slaughter civilians in rebel-held Douma, near Damascus, last weekend, but it assigns high credibility to the claims that there was a chemical attack and that Assad’s forces were responsible for it. There were reportedly two attacks at the site, one using chlorine and one using a nerve gas, possibly sarin.

An analysis of footage of the dead and wounded shows clearly that some were hit by nerve gas. Israel doesn’t believe the Syrian, Russian and Iranian claim that the rebels forged evidence of the attack, while the chance that the rebels themselves accidently used chemical weapons against civilians in an area under their control seems very slim.

Maintaining and using such weapons is relatively difficult, and the rebels in that area – the northern and eastern suburbs of Damascus – aren’t known to have such capabilities. In contrast, an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement denouncing the use of chemical weapons said the Assad regime recently resumed making such weapons.

The Syrian army has almost finished conquering the rebel enclaves in this area. The Syrians, backed by heavy Russian aerial bombardments, have mounted massive assaults on rebel-held neighborhoods to pressure them into signing surrender agreements.

>>Top Israeli defense officials push for offensive approach in Syria against Iran  Russia’ tough rhetoric shows that Israel is losing its leeway with the Kremlin | Analysis 

But for the first time in years, the Syrians aren’t noticeably relying on Shi’ite militias affiliated with Iran. Some of those militias have been assigned other tasks, including maintaining control of areas that have already been captured, like the northern city of Aleppo.

In contrast, Hezbollah’s elite units, including its Radwan commando force, are sent into battle whenever the Syrian effort runs into trouble. They are also assigned to protect assets vital to the regime in Damascus and the Alawite region in northwestern Syria. Hezbollah has a limited presence in southern Syria as well, and Israel suspects this is part of Iran’s future plans to create military friction with Israel along the border in the Golan Heights.

Israeli military forces in northern Golan Heights.
Israeli military forces in northern Golan Heights. Gil Eliahu

After they finish the fight in northern and eastern Damascus, Assad’s forces are expected to turn on the last major pocket of resistance near the capital: the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in southern Damascus. The Islamic State still maintains an active presence in this area.

Later, regime forces are expected to mount a major offensive in southern Syria – in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, and probably also in the Syrian part of the Golan, near Israel’s border. Israel’s assumption is that the regime will make every effort to regain effective control of most of the Syrian Golan, and that its offensive, backed by Russia and Iran, will continue.

The Iran-Israel War Flares Up

February 12, 2018

The fight is over a Qods Force presence on the Syria-Israel border. How will the U.S. respond?

Israeli soldiers inspect the wreckage of the downed F-16 Saturday.
Israeli soldiers inspect the wreckage of the downed F-16 Saturday. PHOTO: ABIR SULTAN/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

The conflict between Israel and Iran may be heating up after a half-decade simmer. On Friday night Iran dispatched a drone from Syria that penetrated Israeli airspace in the Golan Heights. Israel destroyed it with an Apache helicopter. Then on Saturday Israel sent eight F-16s across the border to strike the airfield in the Homs governorate, called the T-4 base, where the drone originated, as well as a handful of other Iranian targets. Although the mission was a success, one F-16 was shot down by Syrian antiaircraft fire—though the pilot made it back to Israel, where he and his navigator ejected successfully.

This was the most significant clash to date between Israel and the so-called Axis of Resistance—Iran, Syria’s Assad regime and Hezbollah—since Iran began deploying soldiers and proxies to Syria six years ago. Israel insists its response was limited and its intent is to contain this conflagration. Its critics worry that the skirmish could explode into one of the worst wars the Middle East has ever seen.

The Iranians have been exploiting the chaos of the Syrian civil war to build up military assets there that target Israel, all the while sending advanced weaponry to Lebanon by way of Damascus, also under the fog of war. The Israelis have been vigilant; they have destroyed some of this hardware in Syria with one-off strikes. In December they struck an Iranian base southwest of Damascus, some 30 miles from the Golan Heights. But they had never entered Syria with the kind of overwhelming force seen on Saturday morning.

What prompted this level of response is still unclear. Israeli military officials won’t say whether the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle was armed. It would be a surprise, though, if Israel’s reprisal was prompted by an unarmed UAV. Indeed, this was not the first drone incursion into the Golan Heights. Last year, Israel’s missile defenses intercepted several Iranian-built drones, operated by Hezbollah, attempting to enter Israeli airspace from Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces had warned that the T-4 base was crawling with fighters from Iran’s Qods Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had paid multiple visits to Moscow hoping to convince President Vladimir Putin to curb the threatening activities of Iran and its proxies. Mr. Putin has established a formidable presence in Syria since 2015, when his forces entered the country ostensibly to combat Islamic State.

The Israelis took a significant risk Saturday of rankling the Russians, especially since they reportedly did not warn Moscow of the attack in advance. Russian personnel sometimes embed with Syrian air-defense units and are sometimes present at the T-4 base. Thus the strike might have been intended as a message to the Russians as much as to the Iranian axis.

Whether Russia had advance knowledge of the Iranian drone operation isn’t clear. Nor do we know whether Russia was involved in unleashing the Syrian surface-to-air missiles that downed the Israeli F-16. What we do know is that after many Israeli airstrikes in Syria over many months, this was the first time Syrian antiaircraft weapons managed to hit a target. That points toward Russian involvement.

Even so, the Israelis were not deterred from launching, within hours, a second wave of airstrikes against additional Iranian and Syrian targets, including air-defense sites, many of which likely had been monitored for months. According to Israeli sources, the second wave was the largest aerial attack against Syria since the Lebanon war of 1982, when the Israeli Air Force hammered Syria’s Soviet-built surface-to-air missile batteries in the Bekaa Valley.

Now all eyes are on Israel as it mulls its next moves. For Jerusalem, the status quo is unsustainable. The Iranians are clearly willing to absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position, which will prepare them for a future conflict with the Jewish state. So while Israel’s political leaders are eager to avoid conflict, the military brass may soon determine that postponing it would be the riskier course.

The Israelis also are working the phones with the Trump administration, which has affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. That declaration will carry significance as Israel considers its options. Washington continues to tweak its new policy of targeting Iran with multiple instruments of American power. But this policy is encumbered somewhat by the White House’s agreement with Russia to maintain a “de-escalation zone” in southwest Syria—an agreement that clearly benefits Iran and the status quo.

The Pentagon and State Department have already condemned Iran and thrown their support behind Israel. The question now is whether the Trump administration will go further. In a speech last month unveiling the administration’s strategy for Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed that the U.S. seeks not only to ensure its allies’ security but to deny Iran its “dreams of a northern arch” from Tehran to Beirut. A good way to achieve both objectives would be to back Israel’s responses to Iran’s aggression—now and in the future.

Mr. Badran is a research fellow and Mr. Schanzer senior vice president for research of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.