JERUSALEM – Israel released details on Tuesday about what it described as an Iranian "air force" deployed in neighboring Syria, including civilian planes suspected of transferring arms, a signal that these could be attacked should tensions with Tehran escalate. Iran, along with Damascus and its big-power backer Russia, blamed Israel for an April 9 airstrike on a Syrian air base, T-4, that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members. Iranian officials have promised unspecified reprisals. Israeli media ran satellite images and a map of five Syrian air bases allegedly used to field Iranian drones or cargo aircraft, as well as the names of three senior IRGC officers suspected of commanding related projects, such as missile units. The information came from the Israeli military, according to a wide range of television and radio stations and news websites.
Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, in the Syria war. The Shiite allies have sent forces to back Syrian President Bashar Assad, who appears headed toward victory after years of fighting. Israel has said it will not accept a permanent military presence by Iran and its Shiite allies in Syria, especially near the Israeli border.
Russia on Wednesday identified the village from which a swarm of drones attacked its main military base in Syria and released photographs of the crudely constructed aircraft that were used. The revelations only somewhat cleared up the mystery surrounding what amounts to the biggest concerted attack on Russia's main military base of Hmeimim since the Russian military intervention in Syria began in 2015. Russia said it held Turkey accountable for the drone attack, calling it a breach of their cease-fire agreement in northern Syria, while Turkey accused Russia and Iran of jeopardizing the entire peace process by launching an offensive to take control of an opposition-held air base in the area. The Russian Defense Ministry named the opposition-controlled village of Muwazarra in southern Idlib province as the location from which a swarm of at least a dozen drones armed with crude explosives was launched Saturday, attacking the Hmeimim air base and the nearby naval base of Tartus in northwestern Syria. Under the cease-fire deal, Turkey is supposed to restrain opposition forces in Idlib province.
Mevlut Cavusoglu's comments came a day after Syrian government forces captured 14 villages as they advanced on Idlib, the largest rebel-held enclave in the country's north, amid a wave of airstrikes. The troops aim to reach a rebel-held air base and secure the road linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest.
BEIRUT – Two suicide bombers stormed a police station in the Syrian capital on Monday, killing at least 17 civilians and police, state TV reported, while a drone strike in eastern Syria killed 10 Hezbollah fighters who were helping Syrian troops battle the Islamic State group. The Syrian government is at war with the IS group as well as a local al-Qaida affiliate and an array of rebel groups, none of which immediately claimed the attack. He said the other bomber made it inside the compound, where police killed him, causing his bomb to explode. The blasts damaged the lower floors of the building, and shattered the windows along one side. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said the Hezbollah fighters were killed Monday morning when their position came under attack from the sky.
Russia has retaliated by threatening to treat American planes as targets; in a dramatic "Top Gun"-style maneuver on Monday, one of Moscow's jets buzzed within five feet of an American spy plane. None of these encounters involved the Islamic State. The contradiction opens a larger question, national security experts say, of what kind of broader strategy the Trump administration plans once the Islamic State -- now on the defensive -- is defeated in Syria. With each episode, "we own more of the conflict in Syria without articulating a strategy," said Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "We are sleepwalking into a much broader military mandate, without saying what we plan to do afterward."