Syria & Lebanon

Syria says Israeli jets attack airbase in Homs

Syrian state media reports no casualties after several rockets hit T4 airbase, causing material damage.

Israeli jets attacked the main T4 airbase in Homs province, the Syrian army has said, adding that its air defences downed several missiles in an attack that caused material damage.

An army spokesman told state media on Tuesday that four Israeli missiles did reach the base, but said air defences intercepted and destroyed several others.

There were no casualties in the attack which occured at about 10:00pm (20:00 GMT), the report by state news agency SANA said.

“The Israeli airforce conducted new aerial aggression and immediately our air defences confronted the enemy missiles,” an army statement said.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment.

Syrian state television earlier did not say who was behind the attack on the major air base, which Israel accuses of hosting an Iranian military presence and has targeted several times in recent years.

Campaign against Iranian presence
The Syrian army statement said the Israeli war jets flew from Tanf, to the southeast, where the US has set up a base near the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

Tanf lies on the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, a major supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria.

This makes the base a bulwark against Iran and part of a larger US campaign against Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria.

Israel has repeatedly bombed Iranian-backed militia targets in Syria, saying its goal was to end Tehran’s military presence in the war-torn country.

Tuesday’s attack is the first which Syria accused Israel of undertaking since the US killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, in a drone strike on January 3, sparking one of the biggest escalations between Tehran and Washington since 1979.

Iran-backed armed groups, led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, now hold sway in vast areas in eastern and southern Syria as well as several suburbs around the capital.

They have also entrenched themselves in the strategically located border town of AlbuKamal on the Euphrates river in Deir Az Zor district in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq where Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups have a strong foothold.

The Iraqi side of the border had seen the deployment in large numbers of Iran-linked Iraqi Shia militias who now de facto control large stretches of the frontier, with posts not far from military bases housing US troops.

The US military struck the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia in areas in Iraq and Syria along the border area at the end of last month in what US officials said was a response to escalating provocations from Iran.

Israel in the past has said Iran uses the T4 base to transfer weapons to the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, with which it fought a deadly month-long war in 2006. Western intelligence sources say it has also been used as a base for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Israel, which previously has rarely acknowledged attacks in Syria, has become more vocal in pledging it will do what is needed to thwart the entrenchment of Iranian forces or arms transfers to Hezbollah.

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