Israeli airstrikes intensify campaign against Iranian targets in Syria

Israeli warplanes carried out what is believed to be the largest bombing raid in years on Iran-linked military sites in Syria, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers and foreign militiamen in a barrage of strikes early Wednesday.

The bombardment follows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling Iran “the world’s biggest sponsor of state terrorism,” and comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s staunch ally, Donald Trump, is about to step down. US President-elect Joe Biden should try to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear deal that the United States abandoned in 2018 and which Israel opposes.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war observer, reported that 57 Syrian soldiers and foreign fighters belonging to Iran-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, were killed in more than a dozen airstrikes, claiming it was the highest number of casualties. recorded from an Israeli bombardment in Syria.

Syrian state media reported that “the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial assault” in areas near its southeastern border with Iraq, where militia bases are located, but did not give any information. details of the victims.

Israel has long said it was threatened by Iranian-backed militias, primarily the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which threw their weight behind President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the decade-long Syrian civil war. Iranian soldiers have also been deployed to support Tehran’s ally Damascus.

With Syria sharing a border with Israel, Tel Aviv has warned the war-torn country risks becoming an Iranian military outpost that could pose serious risks to Israel. In a year-end report, the Israel Defense Forces said it carried out 50 airstrikes in Syria in 2020. Local reports were of Israeli airstrikes in Syria as recently as early January.

Mr. Trump’s support of Mr. Netanyahu, while stepping up sanctions against Iran in the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign, encouraged the Israeli prime minister and many residents of the region braced for hostilities in the last days of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

M. Pompeo Tuesday claims that the Sunni jihadist terrorist group “al-Qaida has a new home port: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran”, without substantiating this allegation. The Iranian theocracy is ruled by Shiite Muslim clerics. Tehran has denied the allegations.

He claimed Iran agreed to expand its support for militants in 2015, the same year Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The United States has since abandoned the deal, and analysts believe the Trump administration wants to sabotage Mr. Biden’s chances of negotiating a deal with Iran that would lead the United States to join the deal.

The Jewish state rarely comments on individual actions and did not comment on Wednesday’s strikes.

The attack reported on Wednesday is unusually large and comes after The Associated Press reported a meeting between the US Secretary of State and a head of the Israeli intelligence service at a public cafe in Washington on Tuesday. AP quoted a “senior US intelligence official” who said the US provided intelligence that aided the airstrikes on Syria.

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