Archive for April 13, 2019

Trump warns Putin of US umbrella over Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria – DEBKAfile

April 13, 2019

Source: Trump warns Putin of US umbrella over Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria – DEBKAfile

Tehran had no reason to expect Russian Pantsir, S-300 or S-400 air defense missiles to begin knocking out the Israeli aircraft targeting Iranian military sites in Syria. Some analysts reported that Iran was disappointed by the silence of the Russian systems when, according to Syrian sources, Israeli aircraft from Lebanese air space struck locations, in the Hama region early Saturday, April 13.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that the Russians were quietly strengthened in their three-year policy of non-interference by a message from President Donald Trump to President Vladimir Putin through back-channels. Putin was warned to continue to turn a blind eye to Israeli raids on Iranian targets in Syria. The message implied that the Israeli Air Force was for the first time operating under an American aerial umbrella.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knew about the Trump message before he sat down with Putin in the Kremlin on April 4. He was there to adapt the military coordination arrangements between Israel and Russia to the relocation of Iranian command enters and stores from Damascus to Aleppo. The Israeli Air Force targeted the new locations for the first time on Feb. 27.

The US guarantee of aerial support was first arranged at the end of 2018 between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Netanyahu in his dual role as defense minister. But only now was it brought to the attention of the Russian president.

Had the prime minister gone public on this deal before the April 9 general election, he would have been accused of inappropriately boosting his Likud party’s prospects. For that reason, Netanyahu and Putin abstained from going into specifics of the new arrangements when they met, having earlier covered them discreetly in their phone conversation a few days before their meeting.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his staff were conspicuously absent from the Israeli leader’s Moscow talks on April 4. They were demonstrating the reservations they have about American intervention in the bilateral Russian-Israeli understandings over the IAF’s targeting of military assets and arms shipments in Syria. As of now, the Russian military in Syria is barred from interfering in Israel’s anti-Iran offensive by the threat of American reprisals. At the same time, neither Washington nor Moscow is keen on a military flare-up occurring in Syria, certainly not one involving the Iranian military or its allied Shiite militias, especially Hizballah.

The Iranians were furious when the Russian military made no move to defend their sites against Israel’s latest attack on the military facilities they share with the Syrians in and around Masyaf in the western Hama province. Syrian State media reported that several buildings were destroyed, including a military academy, and that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the Israeli missiles. Syrian opposition sources cited three Israeli targets and 17 casualties, including deaths, but it was not immediately clear whether they were Syrian or pro-Iranian militia fighters. DEBKAfile adds that one of the targets was a factory for upgrading the precision of surface missiles supplied by Iran to Hizballah.

 

Syria says Israeli strike targets ‘military position’ in western Hama province

April 13, 2019

Source: Syria says Israeli strike targets ‘military position’ in western Hama province | The Times of Israel

State media claims some missiles intercepted by air defenses; several buildings destroyed and three ‘fighters’ injured in area believed to house Iranian, Hezbollah forces

This screenshot from a video released by Syria’s official news agency SANA allegedly shows Syrian air defenses firing on Israeli missiles in the province of Hama, April 13, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

Syrian state media said Israel carried out an air strike on military targets near the city of Masyaf in western Hama province overnight Friday-Saturday.

Syria’s official state news agency SANA said Israel Air Force jets fired missiles while flying from Lebanese airspace, destroying several buildings and injuring three people. Syrian opposition sources said the targeted sites served Iranian forces and their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

“Around 2:30 am (2330 GMT Friday)… the Israeli air force carried out a strike targeting one of our military positions in the town of Masyaf,” SANA quoted a military source as saying.

SANA said Syrian air defenses intercepted some of the missiles.

“The enemy missiles were dealt with and some of them were shot down before reaching their target, resulting in the damage of a few buildings and the injury of three fighters,” SANA said, according to a Reuters report.

Earlier, SANA had reported explosions in the area’s countryside.

In February, an Israeli satellite imagery analysis company said that Syria’s powerful S-300 air defense system was “probably operational” in the area of Masyaf, where the recent strike reportedly occurred. The system would pose a potential threat to Israel’s aerial campaign against Iran in the country.

The firm, ImageSat International, based this assessment on multiple images of the anti-aircraft battery, which showed three of its four launchers in a raised position, signaling that they are likely ready to be used by the Syrian military.

Israel has threatened to destroy the S-300 system if it is used against its fighter jets, regardless of the potential blowback Jerusalem would face from Russia, which provided Syria with the powerful air defense battery.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International appear to show three out of four missile launchers of the S-300 air defense system in the raised position in Masyaf on February 5, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Last month, Israel allegedly attacked Iranian targets near the northern city of Aleppo. SANA said at the time that the airstrike targeted several bases near an industrial zone by the airport and that air defenses had managed to intercept several incoming missiles.

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz appeared to confirm last month’s attack, saying in an interview with Israel Radio late last month that “as far as Iran knows, it’s Israel” that carried out the strike, and went on to say that it was a “challenging” operation.

The strikes come at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Syria, following last month’s decision by the US administration to recognize Israel’s control over the Golan Heights it captured from Syria in 1967. The decision sparked condemnation and protests in Syria.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security, and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

AFP contributed to this report.

 

Iranian forces said killed in reported Israeli airstrikes on Syria military site

April 13, 2019

Source: Iranian forces said killed in reported Israeli airstrikes on Syria military site | The Times of Israel

London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 17 people injured in raid near city of Masyaf as jets target missile development center, training camp

A screengrab circulating on social media purporting to show an alleged Israeli air strike targeting Iranian assets in the Syrian city of Masyaf on April 13, 2019. (Screengrab/Twitter)

A screengrab circulating on social media purporting to show an alleged Israeli air strike targeting Iranian assets in the Syrian city of Masyaf on April 13, 2019. (Screengrab/Twitter)

A number of Iranian forces were reportedly killed in an airstrike on a Syrian military position near the city of Masyaf in western Hama province overnight Friday-Saturday. Syrian state media said Israeli jets carried out the raid in the middle of the night, firing missiles while flying in Lebanese airspace.

Syria’s official state news agency SANA said Israel targeted a military site in the area, but that Syrian air defenses intercepted the attack, downing some of the missile fired. The regime mouthpiece said the interception resulted in the destruction of several buildings and the wounding of three “fighters.” The area is known to house Iranian forces and their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

According to a report by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Arabic, Iranian “elements” and pro-Iranian militants were killed in the alleged attack, and 17 people were injured.

Israel does not regularly comment on alleged strikes in Syria, though it has acknowledged some operations.

The Observatory said Saturday that the strike targeted a Syrian military college in the town and two buildings used by Iranian forces in nearby villages — a development center for medium-range missiles in Zawi and a training camp in Sheikh Ghadban.

Iran has been one of the top military backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the over nine-year-long civil war in the country, as has been its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah terror group.

SANA quoted a military source as saying on Saturday, “Around 2:30 am (2330 GMT Friday)… the Israeli air force carried out a strike targeting one of our military positions in the town of Masyaf,” adding that Syrian air defenses intercepted some of the missiles.

“The enemy missiles were dealt with and some of them were shot down before reaching their target, resulting in the damage of a few buildings and the injury of three fighters,” SANA said, according to a Reuters report.

Earlier, SANA had reported explosions in the area’s countryside.

Israel is said to have previously struck the area near Masyaf, home to a Syrian scientific research center. Western officials have long associated the Scientific Studies and Research Center near Masyaf, known as CERS, with the manufacture of chemical arms.

In July last year, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier that month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.

File: Satellite image of CERS facility near Masyaf (screen capture: Google Earth)

In September 2018, satellite photos published by an Israeli intelligence firm purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in the area of Wadi al-Uyun, near Masyaf. The photos, which were shared by ImageSat International, were said to show a facility resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

The site was likely not targeted due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

In February, ImageSat International said Syria’s powerful S-300 air defense system was “probably operational” in the area of Masyaf. The system would pose a potential threat to Israel’s aerial campaign against Iran in the country.

The firm based this assessment on multiple images of the anti-aircraft battery, which showed three of its four launchers in a raised position, signaling that they are likely ready to be used by the Syrian military.

Israel has threatened to destroy the S-300 system if it is used against its fighter jets, regardless of the potential blowback Jerusalem would face from Russia, which provided Syria with the powerful air defense battery.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International appear to show three out of four missile launchers of the S-300 air defense system in the raised position in Masyaf on February 5, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Last month, Israel allegedly attacked Iranian targets near the northern city of Aleppo. SANA said at the time that the airstrike targeted several bases near an industrial zone by the airport and that air defenses had managed to intercept several incoming missiles.

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz appeared to confirm last month’s attack, saying in an interview with Israel Radio late last month that “as far as Iran knows, it’s Israel” that carried out the strike, and went on to say that it was a “challenging” operation.

The strikes come at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Syria, following last month’s decision by the US administration to recognize Israel’s control over the Golan Heights it captured from Syria in 1967. The decision sparked condemnation and protests in Syria.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security, and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah