Archive for November 18, 2020

Trump can help Israel against Iran in final months – analysis

November 18, 2020

Here’s hoping…

I’ve always thought it would be totally awesome if the US gave/sold Israel some bombers (like B-2 or B-52 or B-1), together with a whole heap of whopping big bunker busters.

Game over, Iran.

US AMBASSADOR to Israel David Friedman and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner stand behind US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in August. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

It’s likely that the US and Israel have something up their sleeves that can’t be mentioned.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his trip to the region last week, State Department officials said his stop in Israel from Wednesday to Friday will be on “a variety of issues, including the implementation of the Abraham Accords.”

Interestingly, Iran was not mentioned as a topic of discussion in Israel, despite being mentioned repeatedly in the context of Pompeo’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia on this tour.

Yet it defies all logic to think that Iran is not going to be on the agenda for Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem. Yes, there is much to discuss about the Abraham Accords, but Israel is one of the primary targets of the Iranian nuclear threat.

And in the two months remaining for the Trump administration, it is more likely to be able to take effective steps directly countering the Iranian threat than on expanding the circle of Middle Eastern countries establishing relations with Israel.

When it comes to the Abraham Accords, the State Department official said the UAE and Bahrain are working toward opening embassies in Israel and starting cooperation in education, healthcare, security and other issues.

“The accords represent a historic breakthrough, and we believe more Arab and Muslim-majority countries will soon follow down this path of peace,” he said.

In Israel, however, officials are more circumspect about the chances of convincing more Arab states to normalize ties.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (Likud), a member of the security cabinet, said many processes in the region were put on hold ahead of this month’s US election. That situation will likely continue until presumed President-elect Joe Biden makes his positions clear, he said.

“I think many countries in the region will now sit, wait and see what the American policy will look like,” Cohen said.

Saudi Arabia is one country that has been mentioned as a likely candidate to establish relations with Israel soon. Biden, however, has made statements about distancing his administration from Riyadh, especially in light of its human-rights violations, which the Trump administration ignored.

The Saudis will likely wait and see what they can get out of a Biden administration in exchange for normalization with Israel, whether it’s weapons sales, more favorable policies or both.

Cohen expressed hope that Biden would pick up where US President Donald Trump left off.

“We’re in a process of peace agreements, of promoting stability in the region,” he said. “If I were Biden, I would strengthen this axis and not make things easier for Iran.”

In the meantime, Israel is encouraging the Trump administration to take direct action to reduce the Iranian threat.

It’s likely that the US and Israel have something up their sleeves that can’t be revealed. A recent report in The New York Times that Israel in August killed al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, who was based in Iran, is a reminder that there are always things happening behind the scenes when it comes to Israeli and American efforts to curb the threat from Iran.

SOME HAVE suggested the possibility of an attack on Iran in the next two months. But this seems unlikely in light of acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller’s letter to all Department of Defense employees on Friday, calling for an end to the state of war the US has been in since 2001.

“This is a critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership to a supporting role… All wars must end,” he wrote. “Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”

The US can, for example, send bunker-buster bombs to Israel, like a bill proposed last month by Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) and Brian Mast (R-Florida) would allow. The 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb the bill mentions would allow Israel to defend itself against Iran if it develops nuclear weapons and would “shore up Israel’s qualitative military edge,” Gottheimer said.

One expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel would need B-1 or B-52 bombers to carry the bunker buster to Iran without its air force being able to stop it. But the Obama administration refused to give Israel the bunker busters or allow the IAF to train on the planes.

The Trump administration is in favor of giving Israel bunker busters, but it has said the US only has 18 B-1 bombers. Still, America has plenty of Cold War-era B-52s that can do the job.

When Pompeo visits Israel this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could push for the US to give Israel these capabilities, which will shift the balance in the region so that the Jewish state can destroy Iran’s nuclear program if need be.

As for what’s being discussed more openly, the Trump administration clearly is not relaxing its “maximum pressure” campaign during its final months. The US plans to pile on more and more sanctions in the coming weeks, with a goal to make it difficult for Biden to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal that gave Iran a long-term path to a bomb.

Some of these sanctions would be placed by designating entities and individuals as terrorists, others would be on human-rights violators, and still others would target Iran’s ballistic-missile system.

These kinds of sanctions are technically easy to undo: Whatever Trump can do with a flourish of executive power can be reversed by Biden the exact same way.

But the Trump administration is relying on the idea that lifting sanctions on terrorists and human-rights violators would be politically toxic. It would raise the question of why the Biden administration cares so much about restoring the Obama-era agreement that it would overlook atrocities, thus making it much more challenging for Biden to take the necessary steps to rejoin the Iran deal. 

FORMER ISRAELI ambassador to the US Michael Oren, who was in Washington as the Obama administration began talks with Iran, said the Trump administration was giving Biden “the gift of leverage” going into negotiations and called on the president-elect not to squander it.

“As Bibi [Netanyahu] used to say, We have them on the ropes. Don’t let them get off the mat,” he said.

However, Oren mentioned efforts that Biden associates have been making to counter the Trump administration by spreading “myths” about the efforts to curb an Iran nuclear weapon.

“The lie of the JCPOA… [is a] false dichotomy that it’s either the Iran deal or war,” Oren said. “That isn’t the choice: The choice is between the Iran deal and a better deal. Nobody in the Middle East believed the choice is war. The only people who believed that is the American people because they’re so war-weary – and it worked.”

“I think that Biden would [present that dichotomy] again, and that’s a lie,” he said.

A “multidimensional lie” that some in the Biden orbit have been spreading is that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than it was before Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA, Oren said.

“[For] one [thing], the IAEA says Iran has not enriched enough uranium to produce even one nuclear weapon,” he said. “Two, the JCPOA enables Iran to develop centrifuges that enrich uranium at four times the present rate, reducing the breakout time to a quarter of what it was, which means [that it’s] much closer than Iran was to a bomb in 2015.”

Taking that into account, strategies that Israel and the Trump administration are not discussing openly are likely to have more staying power and be far more effective in protecting Israel from the Iranian threat at this juncture.

Analysis: A History of Targeted Killings Attributed to the Mossad

November 18, 2020

Nice summary of the good work of Mossad.

You should start to feel worried if you see a motorbike (with passenger) in your rear view mirror…

The New York Times revealed on Nov. 13 that Israeli operatives, at the behest of the United States, killed Abu Muhammad al-Masri, a senior Al Qaeda leader in the line of succession on Aug. 7 in Tehran. The killing of al-Masri by Israeli operatives follows a decades old pattern of targeted killings by the Mossad.

FDD’s Long War Journal has compiled the following list of notable targeted killings attributed to the Mossad.

Abu Muhammad al-Masri and Maryam al-Masri

A tweet by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency on Aug. 7, reported that an “Arabic-speaking father and daughter” were shot and killed in their vehicle on Pasadran street in Tehran, Iran.

A little over three months later, The New York Times revealed the pair killed in Tehran were Al Qaeda’s Abu Muhammad al-Masri and his daughter Maryam al-Masri, the widow of Hamza bin-Laden, the son of former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin-Laden.

According to the report, the pair were killed when two gunmen on a motorcycle pulled up beside the vehicle al-Masri was driving and fired five shots from a pistol fitted with a silencer.

Additionally, Israel’s News Channel 12 shed light on why Israel became involved in al-Masri’s killing.

Citing Western intelligence sources, al-Masri planned to “attack Israeli and Jewish targets.” The killing of al-Masri was a “clean operation that was carried out without incident,” the Channel 12 report stated.

Fadi al-Batsh

In Apr. 2018, Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian engineer and member of Hamas, was killed when two men on a motorcycle fired approximately one dozen shots at him as he walked down a street in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lampur.

According to information obtained by The Times, al-Batsh was part of a “training and fundraising network operated from Gaza by Hamas, whose network stretches across the world and has a presence in the UK.”

Additionally, the money raised by the network was funneled to Gaza and the West Bank for Hamas’ military wing al-Qassam Brigades to operate against Israeli targets.

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan and Dariush Rezaei-Nejad

On Jan. 11, 2012, a motorcycle pulled up alongside Ahmadi-Roshan’s silver Peugeot 405 and stuck a magnetic charge to the door he was sitting beside. The magnetic charge detonated killing Ahmadi-Roshan as the assailants drove away.

According to reports, Ahmadi-Roshan was a chief chemist working on Iran’s nuclear program.

Less than six months before the killing of Ahmadi-Roshan, another scientist, Rezaei-Nejad, was shot and killed Jul. 23, 2011, by assailants on a motorcycle in Tehran.

Like his counterpart Ahmadi-Roshan, Rezaei-Nejad was reportedly working on Iran’s nuclear program, although it remains unconfirmed what role he played in it.

Fathi Shaqaqi

On Oct. 26, 1995, Shaqaqi was shot and killed outside the seaside town of Sliema, Malta. Two men on a motorycle drove up to Shaqaqi as he walked down a sidewalk and fired five shots from a pistol equipped with a silencer. Shaqaqi had just returned from Libya where he had met with the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, to urge him to stop expulsions of Palestinians from the country.

Shaqaqi, the founder of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, had long been accused by Israeli intelligence of masterminding suicide bombings against Israelis. He was also a key player in forming the National Alliance, a coalition of eight PLO factions including Islamic Jihad and Hamas who rejected peace with Israel.

A pattern of assassinations

The killings mentioned above share similar characteristics. All involved assassins on motorcycles, the operations were conducted in countries considered hostile to Israel and those killed posed a threat to the country’s security.

There are more notable instances where the Mossad was reportedly behind targeted killings: Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh, Black September’s Ali Hassan Salameh, Hamas’ Mahmoud al-Mabhouh and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Wadi Hadad.

It is noteworthy to mention the Mossad rarely admits responsibility for targeted killings. There are rare occasions when a government official hints of Israel’s involvement in targeted killings, but generally they remain a mystery.

As seen with the killing of al-Masri, neither Iran, the United States, Al Qaeda or Israel have officially mentioned anything about the three-month-old assassination. This saves Iran from having to explain its documented relationship with Al Qaeda and how Israel, a chief enemy of Iran, was able to operate inside the country without being detected by Iranian intelligence.

Israeli jets hit 8 Iranian assets from Golan to Damascus. Five Iranian deaths reported – DEBKAfile

November 18, 2020

GolanIranian targetsIsraeli air strike

The IDF said that air strikes ranging across a line of Iranian and Syrian targets from the Golan to Damascus early Wednesday, Nov. 18, responded to the bombs planted on Israeli Golan from Syria that were defused a day earlier. The fighters struck Iranian Al Qods weapons depots, command posts, military posts and anti-air missile batteries. The targets also included an Iranian military compound used by high officials, a Syrian army Division 7 command post and mobile surface-to-air missiles.  Syrian opposition sources reported at least 10 killed, including 5 members of Iran’s al Qods Force, three Syrian officers and air defense operators, two Iraqi or Lebanese troops and several seriously wounded.
The Syrian state SANA news agency earlier reported three military personnel dead. Syrian air defenses were said to have intercepted the “Israeli aggression” in the south of the country and downed a number of missiles. 

Israel rarely confirms its air strikes over Syria. The last such episode occurred 58 days ago. However, the IDF spokesman this time issued a detailed statement early Wednesday. He said that the bombs disarmed on the Israeli Golan on Tuesday were placed near the Syrian border fence some weeks ago by a local Syrian team acting under the orders of the Iranian al Qods command. The operation had been followed closely by Israeli patrols and reconnaissance drones.

“Iranian weapons continue to enter into Syria and Iranian forces continue to act on the Golan which is not acceptable,” he added.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who was inspecting the Northern Command on Tuesday, held Syria responsible for any aggression emanating from its territory. “We have long been prepared for the possibility of terror attacks in the northern sector,” he said. “The IDF has the capabilities and the determination to respond severely to any incident both on the Lebanese and Syrian fronts.”

Iron Dome batteries are deployed to the northern borders and ground units are on elevated alert for any further escalation.

Saudi minister says nuclear weapons ‘an option’ for kingdom if Iran gets them

November 18, 2020

Adel al-Jubeir says Riyadh ‘will do everything’ to protect itself from Tehran; calls for pressure on Islamic Republic, says ‘we will have to see’ what Biden’s policies will be

By TOI STAFFToday, 5:15 am  0Saudi Arabia’s Adel al-Jubeir speaks to the media during a press conference in Prague, Czech Republic, January 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs said the kingdom will consider arming with nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them.

Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview with Germany’s DPA news agency that nuclear armament was “definitely an option.”

“Saudi Arabia has made it very clear that it will do everything it can to protect its people and to protect its territories,” Jubeir said. The report said the interview was held recently but did not give a specific date.

Jubeir said that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, other countries will follow, and expressed support for taking a harsh stance against Tehran.

“We believe that the Iranians have only responded to pressure,” he said.

“We will have to see” what US President-elect Joe Biden’s policies will be, Jubeir said.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are regional powers and fierce rivals in a struggle for hegemony in the Middle East, and have sparred through proxies in other countries, especially Yemen.

Iran is the region’s leading Shiite power and tied to groups in the region including its proxy Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia views itself as the leader of Sunni states in the Middle East, and is allied with countries including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which both signed normalization pacts with Israel in September. Riyadh is also an ally to the United States, which brokered the normalization deals.

Iran has marched toward nuclear armament since US President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the US from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and levied punishing sanctions against Tehran.

Taking a step back from the brink, Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Tehran was willing to return to the nuclear deal if Biden lifts sanctions on Iran after entering the White House.

Biden pledged to return to the accord during his presidential campaign if Iran also adheres to its commitments again.

“We are ready to discuss how the United States can reenter the accord,” Zarif told Iranian media, according to a translation by the Reuters news agency.

“If Mr. Biden is willing to fulfill US commitments, we too can immediately return to our full commitments in the accord… and negotiations are possible within the framework of the P5+1,” Zarif said, referring to the six world powers that signed onto the deal.

Biden was vice president when former US president Barack Obama signed the deal with Iran. The pact was stridently denounced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argued that it did not put in place sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from seeking nuclear weapons capabilities.

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons and views the possibility of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning a bevy of wide-ranging sanctions on Iran to make it more difficult for the incoming administration to reenter the nuclear deal.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Biden last week to “compensate for past mistakes” and return to the deal, opposed to Zarif, who did not call for restitution.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said Monday it would be a “mistake” for the incoming US administration to reenter the deal.

The remarks appeared to mark the first time an Israeli official publicly spoke out against Biden’s plans to reenter the nuclear accord since he defeated incumbent Trump earlier this month.

During the recent presidential campaign, Biden and his aides slammed Trump’s 2018 decision to bolt the agreement, arguing that it allowed Iran to progress toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.

They pledged that a Biden administration would work to renegotiate a “longer and stronger” deal.

Last week, former Biden aide Amos Hochstein told Channel 12 that rejoining the Iran nuclear deal was “high on his agenda” and that the US president-elect would move to do so shortly after taking office.

UN watchdog: Breaching deal, Iran pumping uranium gas into advanced centrifuges

November 18, 2020

IAEA says Tehran is using advanced technology at underground Natatz plant prohibited by 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 11:56 am  0A lift truck carries a cylinder containing uranium hexafluoride gas for the purpose of injecting the gas into centrifuges in Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, November 6, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

The UN’s atomic watchdog agency has reportedly found that Iran is pumping uranium gas into advanced centrifuges at an underground part of the Natanz nuclear facility, in the latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal signed with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a document distributed to member countries that Iran is feeding uranium hexafluoride (UF₆) gas feedstock into the advanced IR-2m uranium-enriching centrifuges installed at the Natanz plant, Reuters reported Wednesday.

“On 14 November 2020, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding UF₆ into the recently installed cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz,” the IAEA report was quoted as saying.

The nuclear deal Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, only allows Iran to use first-generation IR-1 machines, and states that those are the only ones it was allowed operate at Natanz’s underground plant.

The report comes a week after the UN atomic watchdog said that Iran continues to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium far beyond the limits set in the nuclear deal and to enrich it to a greater purity than permitted.In this February 3, 2007, file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

The IAEA also reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal.

Iran has openly announced a number of violations of the nuclear deal in advance, which have followed the decision by the US to pull out unilaterally in 2018.

The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for the curbs on its nuclear program. Since the US withdrawal and imposition of new sanctions, Tehran has been putting pressure on the remaining parties with the violations to come up with new ways to offset the economy-crippling actions by Washington.

At the same time, the Iranian government has continued to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to its nuclear facilities, a key reason the countries that remain parties to the JCPOA say it’s worth preserving.

The goal of the agreement is to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, something the country insists it does not intend to do.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday that Tehran was willing to return to the 2015 nuclear deal if US President-elect Joe Biden lifts sanctions on Iran after entering the White House.US President Barack Obama, right, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 14, 2015, after an Iran nuclear deal is reached. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Biden pledged to return to the accord during his presidential campaign if Iran returns to fulfilling its commitments. Tehran began breaching the terms of the deal after President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018 and began sanctioning Iran.

“We are ready to discuss how the United States can reenter the accord,” Zarif told Iranian media, according to a translation by Reuters.

“If Mr. Biden is willing to fulfill US commitments, we too can immediately return to our full commitments in the accord… and negotiations are possible within the framework of the P5+1,” Zarif said, referring to the six world powers that signed onto the deal.

Biden was vice president when former US president Barack Obama signed the deal with Iran.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning an array of wide-ranging sanctions on Iran to make it more difficult for the incoming administration to reenter the deal.

IDF says it bombed barracks of top Iranian officers in Syria to ‘send message’

November 18, 2020

Military says Iranian command base near Damascus airport also among targets hit overnight in response to attempted border attack; army goes on high alert for possible retaliation

By JUDAH ARI GROSSToday, 8:01 am  0Illustrative. Syrian air defenses respond to alleged Israeli missiles targeting south of the capital Damascus, on July 20, 2020. (AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces said a round of airstrikes it carried out in Syria on Wednesday morning was meant to send a message to Iran to leave the country, specifically the border area, following an attempted attack on the Golan Heights that was thwarted this week.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, Israeli fighter jets struck eight targets in Syria — roughly half near Damascus and half along the Golan border — in response to an Iranian-directed effort to set off anti-personnel mines against Israeli troops, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said. The explosives were disarmed on Tuesday morning.

According to the spokesman, the strikes targeted a number of facilities controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force, which commands and supports proxy militias in Syria. In addition, the Israeli fighter jets bombed a Syrian military base, as well as several Syrian anti-aircraft batteries that fired at them.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said three soldiers were killed and one was injured in the attack, which it said targeted sites in southern Syria. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the IRGC.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition organization based in the United Kingdom, said 10 people in total were killed in the Israeli strikes, some of them Iranian. This could not be immediately confirmed. The Observatory has in the past been accused of inflating and even inventing casualty figures. In general, Israel does not intentionally target people in its strikes, instead focusing on infrastructure, as this has been found to reduce the likelihood of retaliation by Iran and its proxies.

Zilberman told reporters that the retaliatory attack was intended as both a message to Iran that “we won’t allow Iranian entrenchment at all and next to the border specifically,” and a message to Syria that it will be held responsible for allowing Tehran to maintain a presence in its country.

The spokesman said that Israel tried to send a similar message to Iran and Syria in August after a previous attempt to plant bombs along the border, but it evidently “wasn’t received.”Three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, which were uncovered on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Zilberman said the military was prepared for the possibility of retaliation from Iran or Syria, with Iron Dome and other air defense systems on high alert.

Israel views a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria as an unacceptable threat, which it will take military action to prevent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened further action if Iran again attempted to carry out attacks on Israeli forces or continued to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

“The IDF last night struck military targets belonging to the Iranian Quds Force and the Syrian military in response to the planting of bombs on the Syrian border within Israeli territory. I say again to our enemies: Israel will not accept violations of our sovereignty anywhere, and we will not allow a dangerous force build-up on any border,” Gantz said in a Hebrew video statement.

Zilberman did not reveal the nature of all eight targets of the predawn attack, but said they included: a military base used by Iran to direct its forces in the country located just next door to Damascus International Airport; a secret barracks used by top Iranian commanders in Syria, which is also used to host visiting delegations from Tehran, southeast of Damascus; a base of the Syrian military’s 7th Division, which cooperates widely with Iran; and mobile Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries.Illustrative: IDF troops near the Israel-Syria border, in the Golan Heights on January 3, 2020. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

According to the spokesman, the military knew there were Iranian officers in the barracks when the attack was carried out, but did not specifically target them or the areas in the building where they were located.

In addition, the IDF said it targeted arms warehouses in Syria. Zilberman did not comment on the nature of the sites that were bombed on the Golan border.

The Syrian state news outlet also said Syrian air defenses shot down several incoming Israeli missiles, though war analysts generally dismiss the regime’s regular claims of interceptions as false, empty boasts. Zilberman said the military was still reviewing the results of the attack so he could not say definitively if the claim was true, but that if the Syrian military had succeeded in downing any incoming missiles, it was “extremely marginal if it happened at all.”

Though Israel officially maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding its activities in Syria — in the hopes of not giving Iran and Syria a pretext to respond — the IDF consistently acknowledges carrying out airstrikes on targets in Syria that either are in response to specific attacks from the country, as was the case this week, or were attempts to preempt and prevent such attacks.Three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, which were uncovered on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to Zilberman, the three Claymore-style mines planted along the border were set there by Syrian nationals who live near the border, at the instruction of the IRGC Quds Force. The mines were uncovered in a buffer zone near the border that is under Israeli control but is on the Syrian side of the security fence, where the IDF regularly conducts patrols, indicating that the explosives were meant to be used against soldiers.

It was the same area where Iranian-backed Syrian operatives tried to plant mines in August, though in that case the four men were spotted by the IDF at the time and killed.A map showing the approximate location of where Israel says three anti-personnel mines were planted by Syrian nationals working on behalf of Iran, in a buffer zone between the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria and a security fence, on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Since that attempt, the IDF has more closely monitored the area to prevent a similar attack.

Zilberman said the military did not yet know when the three mines were planted along the border, but that it seemed to have been several weeks ago. The IDF was investigating how the Iranian-backed operatives were able to evade detection and plant the bombs.

On Tuesday morning, the IDF sent a team of combat engineers into the area to disarm the mines.Volume 0%

Zilberman said the military called on the UN peacekeeping force that is meant to maintain the 1974 ceasefire between Israel and Syria to prevent such attacks in the future.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.