JERUSALEM – Israeli warplanes struck Iran-linked targets in Syria overnight after troops uncovered roadside bombs along the frontier in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said Wednesday. Syrian state media said the strikes killed three Syrian soldiers.
A Syrian war monitoring group said the strikes killed 10, including the three Syrian soldiers and at least five Iranians. The report could not be independently verified, and an Iranian official denied any Iranians were killed in the strikes.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. This time, officials appeared keen to publicize the discovery of the bombs and the retaliatory strikes as a message to Iran and Syria.
“I, once again, remind our enemies: Israel will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty on any front,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement. "The Syrian regime is accountable for what happens on its territory or out of its territory.”
Israel's shadow war against Iran and its allies has escalated in recent months, with cyberattacks and exchanges of fire with militants in Syria and Lebanon. U.S. officials recently confirmed that Israel and the U.S. worked together to kill a senior al-Qaeda operative in Iran earlier this year.
Israelis are meanwhile concerned that President-elect Joe Biden will adopt a more conciliatory approach toward Iran. Biden has said he hopes to return the U.S. to Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, to which Israel was staunchly opposed.
The Israeli military said the anti-personnel mines had been placed near one of its positions in the Golan Heights by a “Syrian squad led by Iranian forces." It said a similar incident happened in the same area in August, which also prompted retaliatory strikes on Syria.
Israel said the latest strikes targeted sites belonging to Iran's elite Quds Force and the Syrian military, including “storage facilities, headquarters and military compounds,” as well as Syrian anti-aircraft missile batteries.