Israel confirms strikes on Syria targets
Lebanon border mission ends; army says tunnels by Hezbollah destroyed
JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday confirmed that Israel has struck hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, including a weapons facility in a weekend airstrike, as the military announced the discovery of a sixth and final tunnel dug by the Lebanese militant group for cross-border attacks.
The statements marked a rare, public acknowledgment of Israeli attacks against Hezbollah and its patron Iran in neighboring 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 fighting in neighboring Syria’s civil war.
At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu publicly confirmed the strike as he thanked outgoing military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot for long years of service and particularly his marshaling 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 Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah’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.
The powerful Shiite Hezbollah group, which acts independently in Lebanon, has yet to comment on the tunnels.