American paper cites anonymous officer who says Israel acted to contain Iranian efforts to establish bases in Syria, but later amends report to reflect IDF’s official position.
Although nobody would confirm the admission officially, a senior member of the IDF was quoted in the New York Times Monday as stating that Israel did indeed attack a Syrian air base a week ago.
“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” said the source, according to the paper.
The T-4 base that was hit by at least three missiles had been the launchpad of an Iranian drone sent into Israeli airspace on February 10th which had been quickly shot down by an Israeli air force helicopter.
Israel had openly reacted to the violation of its sovereignty at the time by hitting the base with several IAF jets in what was the largest strike on Syria since the First Lebanon War. IAF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar described that mission as an attack on advanced long-range surface-to-air missiles, components of Syria’s air-defense system, and the Iranian mobile control center that had been responsible for the drone.
Last week’s missile strike was therefore the second go at the same target, but this time seemingly with intent to specifically hit the Iranians hard, as the source said. Fourteen people were reported killed, including seven Iranian Quds Force members and the head of their drone unit. In fact, the purpose of the attack was reportedly to totally eliminate Tehran’s drone program at the central Syrian base.
The timing of the raid – right after Syria had bombed a rebel-held enclave with chemical weapons that killed dozens and injured hundreds – led Syria to first accuse the American administration of it. But the Americans denied any role, and Syria, along with its Russian and Iranian allies, quickly pointed the finger at Israel, which remained silent. And still does — officially.
Previously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly and repeatedly warned that Israel would not allow its deadliest enemy to build missile factories or set up forward bases in Syria that endanger Israel’s existence. And as the military source also noted, “This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy. This opened a new period.”
The question is whether this new period of direct confrontation between the two powers in the Middle East will be a limited one or not.
The author of the NY Times article, Thomas Friedman, later updated the piece after the IDF spokesman’s office contacted him, adding the following: “After the story appeared, the Israeli Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the characterization and accuracy of the raid by my Israeli source, and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to avoid commenting on media reports regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and other events. He would not comment further.”
By: Batya Jerenberg
(World Israel News)