Israel steps up air campaign against Iranian militias in Syria

Israel steps up air campaign against Iranian militias in Syria
An image grab taken from an AFP video shows what appears to be smoke billowing over buildings near the Syrian capital Damascus, following a reported Israeli air strike overnight on July 1, 2019. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 November 2020

Israel steps up air campaign against Iranian militias in Syria

Israel steps up air campaign against Iranian militias in Syria
  • Overnight raids near Damascus kill 8 fighters operating in pro-Iran groups

BEIRUT, AMMAN: Israeli airstrikes in Syria overnight killed at least eight fighters operating in pro-Iran militias, a war monitor said on Wednesday.
The raids targeted an arms depot and a position held by Iranian forces and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah near the capital Damascus, and a pro-Iran militia position in southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Military defectors believe the targeted sites have a strong Iranian military presence. They said the strike targeted a military base in Jabal Mane Heights near the town of Kiswa, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards have long been entrenched in a rugged area almost 15 km south of the center of Damascus.
The area has anti-aircraft missiles that are stationed to defend the Syrian Golan Heights along the border with Israel, the military sources said.
Israeli defense officials have said in recent months that Israel would step up its campaign against Iran in Syria, where Tehran has expanded its presence with the help of its proxy militias.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria, targeting regime troops as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, which support Bashar Assad.

BACKGROUND

Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria, targeting regime troops as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, which support Bashar Assad.

Last week, Israeli warplanes struck Iranian targets in Syria, in what the Israeli army called a retaliatory attack for what it said were explosive devices found near one of its bases on the Golan Heights.
The nationalities of the fighters, who died in the latest air raid, was not immediately known, the Britain-based monitor said.
Syrian state media earlier said an Israeli airstrike had hit an area “south of Damascus” just before midnight local time.
It also reported another strike against the village of Rwihinah in the southern province of Quneitra near the Golan Heights, without reporting any casualties from either attack.
The Israeli army rarely acknowledges individual strikes and refused to comment when contacted by AFP on Wednesday.
The Syrian media reported that those strikes had killed three Syrian soldiers, while the Observatory said seven allied foreign fighters also died.
On Saturday night, airstrikes killed 14 pro-Iran militia fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan in eastern Syria, the Observatory said, adding they were likely Israeli air raids.
Western intelligence sources say Israel’s stepped-up strikes on Syria in the last few months are a part of a shadow war, approved by Washington and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.


Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill
Updated 24 min 22 sec ago

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill
  • Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships”
  • In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Saturday launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean, state television reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program and a US pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships” at a distance of 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles). The report did not specify the type of missiles used.
In the first phase of the drill Friday, the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases.” Iranian state television described the drill as taking place in the country’s vast central desert, the latest in a series of snap exercises called amid the escalating tensions over its nuclear program. Footage also showed four unmanned, triangle-shaped drones flying in a tight formation, smashing into targets and exploding.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased amid a series of incidents stemming from President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Amid Trump’s final days as president, Tehran has recently seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the US has sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region.
In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord, which he has said America could reenter.
Iran fired cruise missiles Thursday as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a US nuclear submarine. Iran’s navy did not identify the submarine at the time, but on Saturday, a news website affiliated with state television said the vessel was American. Helicopter footage of the exercise released Thursday by Iran’s navy showed what resembled an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, the USS Georgia, which the US Navy last month said had been sent to the Arabian Gulf.
Iran has missile capability of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), far enough to reach archenemy Israel and US military bases in the region. Last January, after the US killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of them.
Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord.
When the US then increased sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.