Israeli strikes hit Iranian targets near Russia's Mediterranean bases in Syria

Three personnel were killed in two attacks south of Tartus province and one on Damascus, the Syrian Army says

A crater caused by a reported Israeli air strike in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus in July. Three army personnel were killed on Sunday, and three others wounded, in two Israeli attacks south of the province and another on Damascus, the Syrian Army said. AFP
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A series of Israeli strikes hit Iranian targets in Syria on Sunday, near the ancestral home region of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

The strikes hit targets close to Russia's main Syrian bases on the Mediterranean coast, Reuters reported.

Three personnel were killed and three wounded in two Israeli attacks south of Tartus province and one on Damascus, the Syrian Army said.

Two Syrian military defectors told Reuters the strikes on the north-eastern outskirts of Damascus hit outposts of Lebanon's pro-Iranian Hezbollah group.

A Syrian Army officer in the Tartus coastal region said an Iranian base near the village of Abu Afsa, south of the port city, was targeted, as was a nearby air defence and radar station.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against alleged Iranian targets in recent years, but has mostly avoided hitting the coastal provinces where Russia's main military assets are concentrated.

The strikes come as a low-intensity conflict escalates, with the goal of slowing down Iran's growing entrenchment in Syria, according to Israeli and regional military experts.

The strikes were close to the Russian Navy's only Mediterranean base in the port of Tartus, where Russian warships are docked, while Moscow's major Hmeimim airbase is in nearby Latakia province.

Russian intervention turning the tide

Russia's intervention alongside support from Iran helped to turn the tide in favour of Mr Assad in a conflict that has lasted more than a decade.

The coastal areas are inhabited mainly by Mr Assad's minority Alawite sect, which dominates the higher echelons of power in the security force and army.

Russian forces in Syria regularly turn a blind eye to Israeli air strikes against suspected Iranian-sponsored deployments and arms transfers.

But tensions have mounted between Israel and Russia over Israel's condemnation of the Ukraine war and Moscow's scrutiny of a Jewish emigration agency.

Israel last month said its military jets came under Russian anti-aircraft fire over Syria in May but they missed their target. It described the confrontation as a “one-off incident”.

Syria blamed Israel for major strikes on Damascus International Airport in June that heavily damaged runways and forced a halt to flights for several weeks.

Israeli defence officials say the civilian airport has been used regularly by Iran to transport weapons and militias.

US base struck

Also on Monday, drones hit a compound run by American troops and US-backed Syrian opposition fighters in eastern Syria the US military said. There were no casualties or damage.

The military said the attack took place in the vicinity of Al Tanf base, close to where the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack.

US and coalition troops are based at Al Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter militants from the ISIS group. The base is on a road serving as a vital link for Iran-backed forces, stretching from Tehran all the way to Lebanon.

The military statement said coalition troops in co-ordination with opposition fighters — known as Maghaweir Al Thowra — “responded to an attack by multiple unmanned aerial systems in the vicinity of Al Tanf garrison” on Monday morning.

It said the troops successfully engaged one of the drones preventing its from attacking, while a second one detonated within the opposition forces’ compound, “resulting in zero casualties or reported damage”. The other attempted drone strikes were not successful, it added.

Maj Gen John Brennan, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force, condemned the drone strike. “Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the significant efforts by our partner forces to maintain the lasting defeat of ISIS,” he said.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 11:28 AM