Israel hits Iranian, Hizbollah targets in Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday con ir med that israel has struck hundreds of Iranian and Hizbollah targets in Syria, including a weapons facility in a weekend airstrike, as the military announced the discovery of a sixth and inal tunnel dug by the Lebanese militant group for crossborder attacks.
The statements marked a rare, public acknowledgement of Israeli attacks against Hizbollah and its patron Iran in neighbouring Syria, where Israel is long believed to have targeted Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese Shiite group.
However, Israel has until now generally refrained from commenting about the strikes for fear of triggering a reaction and being drawn into the deadly ighting in neighbouring Syria’s civil war.
At his weekly cabinet meeting, Ne- tanyahu publicly conirmed the strike as he thanked outgoing military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot for long years of service and particularly his marshalling of Israel’s shadowy campaign against Iran in recent years.
“We have operated with impressive success in thwarting Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria, in the framework of which the military has struck hundreds of times against Iranian and Hizbollah targets,” Netanyahu said. “In the last 36 hours alone, the air force struck storage facilities with Iranian weapons at the Damascus International Airport. The bulk of recent attacks show how we are more committed than ever to act against Iran in Syria, as we promised.”
Coupled with the announcement that after Sunday’s discovery, Israel was wrapping up its operation to destroy Hizbollah’s tunnel network into Israel, the weekend strike in Syria is widely seen as Eisenkot’s “parting shot” as his four-year tenure as military chief ends. He will be replaced on Tuesday by Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
After keeping a low-proile throughout most of his term, Eisenkot gave a series on interviews over the weekend focusing on his shifting the military’s attention toward Iran directly, instead of just engaging its lesser proxies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza. In a New York Times interview published Friday, Eisenkot said that Israel “has struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit” as part of his showdown with Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force.