Archive for April 17, 2018

Bracing for Iranian counterstrike, Israel exposes Iran’s air defenses in Syria

April 17, 2018

Israel Hayom Staff April 17, 2018

Source Link: Bracing for Iranian counterstrike, Israel exposes Iran’s air defenses in Syria

{Too close for comfort. – LS}

The deployment of Iranian air defenses and drone units in Syria is personally directed by Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, IDF says • Iran’s military support of Syria, to the tune of $6 billion a year, delivered under the guise of “humanitarian aid.”

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday revealed new information about the deployment of Iranian air defenses in Syria, further exposing Tehran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in the war-torn country.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have been steadily escalating since an Iranian drone that breached Israeli airspace on Feb. 10 was shot down by the Israeli Air Force.

An Israeli official confirmed to The New York Times Monday that it was the IAF that struck the T4 air base in Homs, last week. Seven members of Iran’s elite Quds Force were killed in the strike, including the commander of its drone unit in Syria.

Israeli officials said the drone, which the IDF found had been weaponized and on an offensive mission, was launched from T4.

Fuming over the strike, Iran has vowed to exact vengeance on Israel.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Monday that “Israel will receive a blow for what it did at the T4 base. The days when the Zionist regime would hit and run are over. … I suggest to the Israelis to refrain from foolish steps if they want to continue their treacherous existence,” he warned.

The IDF said Tuesday that the deployment of Iranian air defenses in Syria was personally supervised by Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, one of the most powerful military figures in the Iranian regime.

Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and it has lent his forces significant logistical, technical and financial support in their war against the rebels.

According to the United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, the Iranian government spends at least $6 billion annually on maintaining Assad’s government. Independent researchers believe Iran’s support of Assad’s regime amounts to over double that sum.

Israeli defense officials said that the majority of Iran’s military support is delivered to Syria under the guise of humanitarian aid.

Since 2015, the Iranian Air Force has been conducting routine flights into Syria, using military cargo planes disguised as civilian Iranian airlines to transport weapons and combat personnel, including drone operators.

The Quds Force is said to be focused on establishing air defenses and drone operations in Syria, so it can use them to launch direct offensives against Israel.

The IDF believes that any direct clash between Israel and Iran on the northern border would be carried out by the Revolutionary Guards’ air force rather than by ground troops.


Israel Defense Forces on High Alert, Preparing for Iranian Direct Retaliation

April 17, 2018

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson

Israel’s military is on high alert preparing for the strong probability of direct retaliation from Iran in response to last week’s attack on the Tiyus (T-4) air base in central Syria.

Seven of the 14 people killed in the Israeli air strike on the base were members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force.

Israeli media have been supplied with a map that displays five Iranian-controlled bases in Syria – clearly the five Iranian targets to be hit by the IDF in retaliation if Iran attacks Israel. The targets include Damascus International Airport – through which Iran flies in its weapons and military gear; the Sayqal air base; the T-4 (Tiyus) air base; an air field near Aleppo (Haleb); and a military base near Deir ez-Zour.

Map of Syria provided to Israeli media showing approximate locations of five bases believed to be under the control of Iran

Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani this week issued a direct threat to Israel from Damascus after arriving for a briefing on the T-4 air strike, which an Israeli official told The New York Times this week was indeed was carried out by Israel’s Air Force.

He warned in remarks quoted Tuesday by Lebanon’s Ad-Diyar newspaper that the Jewish State “is going to pay the price,” according to Israel’s Hadashot news.

The Quds Force commander was briefed on the air strike by Iranian and Syrian officers, and also met with members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla force during his rare visit to the Syrian capital.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi told media on Monday that retaliation would forthcoming “sooner or later” and that Israel would “regret its misdeeds… The Zionist regime should not be able to take action and be exempt from punishment,” he said, according to Iranian news media.

Israel has said it will not allow Iran to maintain a permanent military foothold in Syria.

IDF source credits Israel with attack on Iranians in Syria

April 17, 2018

April 16, 2018

American paper cites anonymous officer who says Israel acted to contain Iranian efforts to establish bases in Syria, but later amends report to reflect IDF’s official position.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Although nobody would confirm the admission officially, a senior member of the IDF was quoted in the New York Times Monday as stating that Israel did indeed attack a Syrian air base a week ago.

“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” said the source, according to the paper.

The T-4 base that was hit by at least three missiles had been the launchpad of an Iranian drone sent into Israeli airspace on February 10th which had been quickly shot down by an Israeli air force helicopter.

Israel had openly reacted to the violation of its sovereignty at the time by hitting the base with several IAF jets in what was the largest strike on Syria since the First Lebanon War. IAF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar described that mission as an attack on advanced long-range surface-to-air missiles, components of Syria’s air-defense system, and the Iranian mobile control center that had been responsible for the drone.

Last week’s missile strike was therefore the second go at the same target, but this time seemingly with intent to specifically hit the Iranians hard, as the source said. Fourteen people were reported killed, including seven Iranian Quds Force members and the head of their drone unit. In fact, the purpose of the attack was reportedly to totally eliminate Tehran’s drone program at the central Syrian base.

The timing of the raid – right after Syria had bombed a rebel-held enclave with chemical weapons that killed dozens and injured hundreds – led Syria to first accuse the American administration of it. But the Americans denied any role, and Syria, along with its Russian and Iranian allies, quickly pointed the finger at Israel, which remained silent. And still does — officially.

Previously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly and repeatedly warned that Israel would not allow its deadliest enemy to build missile factories or set up forward bases in Syria that endanger Israel’s existence. And as the military source also noted, “This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy. This opened a new period.”

The question is whether this new period of direct confrontation between the two powers in the Middle East will be a limited one or not.

The author of the NY Times article, Thomas Friedman, later updated the piece after the IDF spokesman’s office contacted him, adding the following: “After the story appeared, the Israeli Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the characterization and accuracy of the raid by my Israeli source, and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to avoid commenting on media reports regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and other events. He would not comment further.”


US Says Russia Trying to Complicate Syria Chemical Weapons Investigation

April 17, 2018

FILE – State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, Aug. 9, 2017.

April 17, 2018 6:31 AM VOA News

Source Link: US Says Russia Trying to Complicate Syria Chemical Weapons Investigation

{Russia has already visited the site and didn’t bother to take a team of independent observers? Hmmm…very troubling. – LS}

The U.S. State Department says Russia has tried to block an international watchdog from investigating a suspected chemical attack in Syria “by making it more complicated” for the specialists to do their work.

“They probably want to do that because they recognize that the longer that a site goes untested the more that the elements, the chemicals, can start to disappear,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told Alhurra television.

The investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Syria on Saturday, but so far have not been able to begin their work in Douma.

A Russian official says the OPCW team is set to visit the area east of Syria’s capital on Wednesday.

Russia has blamed the delays on airstrikes carried out Saturday by the United States, France and Britain on three Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said the mission was not allowed in because it lacked approval from the United Nation’s Department for Safety and Security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018.

U.N. officials in New York disputed the claim.

“The United Nations has provided the necessary clearances for the OPCW team to go about its work in Douma,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. “We have not denied the team any request for it to go to Douma.”

He added that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is very supportive of the investigation.

“The secretary-general wants to see the fact-finding mission have access to all the sites it needs to have access to, so that we can have the most thorough and full picture of the facts,” Dujarric said.

The U.S. envoy to the OPCW, Ken Ward, said Monday it was his understanding Russia had already visited the site and he raised concerns of tampering before the OPCW carries out its fact-finding mission.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that accusation, telling the BBC he guarantees Russia “has not tampered with the site.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting in Moscow, Russia, April 5, 2018.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting in Moscow, Russia, April 5, 2018.

Lavrov said that evidence cited by the United States, Britain and France to justify Saturday’s missile attack was based “on media reports and social media.” He denied any chemical weapons attack had occurred, accusing Britain of staging the attack.

The Group of Seven leading industrialized nations issued a joint statement Tuesday endorsing the airstrikes.

“We fully support efforts made by the United States, the U.K. and France to decrease the capacity to use chemical weapons by the Assad regime and to prevent their future use,” the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and European Union said.

Syrian media reported another missile attack early Thursday in Homs province, but later said it was a false alarm and not an outside attack that triggered air defense systems.

Syrian media reported another missile attack early Thursday in Homs province, saying government air defenses shot down most of the missiles fired at an air base. The reports did not say who was responsible, and the U.S. military said neither it nor the coalition it leads was operating in that area at the time.

People stand in front of damaged buildings, in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, April 16, 2018.
People stand in front of damaged buildings, in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, April 16, 2018.

Nauert told Alhurra the United States is pushing for a renewed focus on the so-called Geneva process the United Nations began in 2012 as a roadmap for ending the Syrian conflict with a new constitution and elections.

“The only thing that I can hope that is positive that came out of the terrible news in Syria last week is to reinvigorate that political process,” she said. “So it is our hope now that countries will go back to the Geneva process and we’ll be able to make some progress there.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made a similar call Monday ahead of a ministerial meeting, saying there is a clear need to push for re-launching the U.N.-led peace process.



April 17, 2018

Syrian media and eyewitnesses reported missile, anti-aircraft fire and fighter jets early Tuesday morning.



{Proxies need not apply. – LS}

Syrian media and locals reported air strikes and Syrian air defense launching rockets in response in the early hours of Tuesday.
According to initial reports, the strikes may have targeted Al-Sayrat airbase and rural Homs, as well as areas around Damascus.

Days after US-led airstrikes hit Homs and Damascus on April 14, Syrian Twitter accounts blamed Israel for alleged strikes on Tuesday morning. The first reports emerged around 1:30am. Al Sura Media claimed fighter jets had targeted Syria’s T4 airbase, where Iranian troops are alleged to be present.

Syrian state television showed pictures of a missile that was shot in the air above the base.

State television did not mention three missiles that were fired at Dumair military airport, northeast of Damascus, that pro-Iranian Hezbollah’s media service reported were intercepted by Syrian air defenses.

Opposition sources say Dumair airport is a major air base used in a large-scale military campaign waged by the Syrian army with Russian firepower that regained eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.

On Monday Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem warned that Iran and Israel are nearing open war as tensions are very high in Syria.

Syria’s Sana Ajel news claimed anti-aircraft units responded to an attack in Shayrat airbase near Homs. That was the same airbase the US struck in 2017 in response to a chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun.

Reports of strikes at Shayrat airbase and areas south of Damascus were dismissed as rumors by some commentators online. Syria’s regime is gearing up for a battle with ISIS in Yarmouk in southern Damascus, and some said that the sounds of missiles might be related to that conflict.

However, Al-Mayadeen and other pro-regime channels showed video of a strange light, which they claimed was part of the airstrikes, hovering in the sky.

The Pentagon said that the US was not involved in any strikes Tuesday morning.

The last week has seen several reported strikes in Syria. The New York Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying Israel had carried out an April 9 air strike in Syria.

The map below shows the location of the reported strikes.