Israel admits to attacking Iranian targets in Syria
Netanyahu confirms hundreds of airstrikes on weapons warehouses
JERUSALEM— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel acknowledged on Sunday that Israeli forces had attacked Iranian weapons warehouses in Syria, after years of ambiguity over involvement in specific attacks on the country.
“We worked with impressive success to block Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, adding that the Israeli military had struck Iranian and Hezbollah targets “hundreds of times.”
“Just in the last 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus,” Netanyahu said.
“The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.” The rare admission came hours after the Israeli military announced that it had exposed the sixth and final tunnel under its border with Lebanon, which it says the Iranian-backed organization Hezbollah dug, wrapping up a six-week operation to seal the cross-border tunnels.
By lifting the veil on its campaign to curb Iranian influence in the region, as well as Tehran’s efforts to upgrade the capabilities of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Israeli government appeared to be trying to convey confidence that the threats from across its northern frontiers were under control.
The public airing of security achievements came as the departing military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, is ending his 40-year army career and as Netanyahu is campaigning for re-election under a cloud of corruption investigations.
Relations between Israel and Russia frayed after a Russian military plane was shot down over Syria in September, killing 15 Russian service members.
The plane was accidentally shot down by Syria in response to an Israeli airstrike, and Russian officials blamed Israel.
Syrian state media reported early Saturday that Israeli warplanes had launched missiles toward the outskirts of Damascus shortly before midnight on Friday, causing material damage to the ammunition warehouses at Damascus International Airport.
Israeli officials have acknowledged strikes against weapons convoys and Iranian targets in Syria, but traditionally refused to confirm or deny responsibility for specific attacks immediately after they take place.