Archive for September 2022

Iran’s president castigates Israel, hails Soleimani, at UN; Israeli envoy walks out 

September 24, 2022

Source: Iran’s president castigates Israel, hails Soleimani, at UN; Israeli envoy walks out | The Times of Israel

Raisi claims Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful, calls killed Quds Force leader Soleimani a freedom-seeker; exiting hall, Erdan leaves photo of Holocaust survivor grandmothers

President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, Sept. 21, 2022.. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, Sept. 21, 2022.. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

NEW YORK — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called Israel a “savage power” and insisted his country’s nuclear program is peaceful in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

Raisi further said the US had trampled the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers. He also vowed to obtain justice for the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general killed by a drone strike in 2020.

“The region has not seen an occupying savage power such as the Zionist regime in its midst in the past,” Raisi said. “The killing of children and women are present in the dark report card of the Zionist regime. It has managed to form the biggest prison in the world in Gaza and the expansion of settlements and housing illegally on Palestinian territories.”

“The killing of Palestinian women and children shows everyone that seven decades of Israeli occupation and savagery is still with us and not ending,” the Iranian president added. “The occupying Zionist power that has occupied Jerusalem and other lands in the region cannot be a partner for security and stability.”

He proposed a vote by all Palestinians — “Muslim, Christians and Jews” — to establish a single state. The suggestion comes in contrast to the two-state solution favored by Western nations and their allied Middle Eastern countries led by Saudi Arabia.

Raisi addressed the UN General Assembly as talks to revive the Iranian nuclear deal approached a take-it-or-leave-it moment.

President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 21, 2022 at UN headquarters. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Nuclear deal talks

“Our wish is only one thing: observance of commitments,” Raisi said, noting it was the US that pulled out of the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He asked whether Iran can “truly trust without guarantees and assurances” that the US will live up to its commitments this time if Washington returns to the JCPOA.

European Union officials have warned the window for securing a deal is about to close, as months of European-sponsored talks have failed to produce agreement on Iran resubmitting to JCPOA terms and the US rejoining the pact.

“America trampled upon the nuclear accord,” said Raisi, who was sworn in as president only a year ago. His speech marks the first time he has taken the podium at the UN in his role as president. Last year, he delivered remarks to the assembly virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are very serious about negotiations,” he said, while the West “keeps repeating the same old stories of the past which puts doubt on their commitment.

He also insisted Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

“We all know that it’s only for human and peaceful endeavors,” Raisi said of his country’s nuclear program. He claimed that sanctions have been ineffective but deplored them as a “punishment on the people of Iran.”

“Iran has neutralized in many ways the sanctions,” he said. “The maximum sanctions policy has suffered an embarrassing defeat.”

Western sanctions have eaten away at Iran’s reserves and exacerbated inflation in the country, which hit 40% last year. Over the summer, Iran’s currency hit its lowest level ever against the US dollar.

President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, Sept. 21, 2022. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

He also blasted what he said was lopsided scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear activities while other nations’ nuclear programs remain secret, a likely reference to Israel.

Regarding the death of Soleimani, Raisi blamed the US and vowed to seek justice.

“We seek a fair tribunal. We will pursue through a fair tribunal those who martyred our beloved General Qasseem Soleimani,” he said.

Raisi described Soleimani — who headed the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated terror group — as “a freedom-seeking man who became a martyr.”

Days after Soleimani’s death, Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting US soldiers in Iraq in response to the fatal drone strike.

Wearing a traditional black turban identified with Shiite clerics, Raisi told the gathered leaders that Iran wants to have “extensive relations with all our neighbors” — an apparent reference to foe Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region.

Israeli envoy walks out

As Raisi took to the podium, Israel’s envoy to the UN Gilad Erdan walked out.

He left in his place a photograph of his Holocaust-survivor grandmothers, and carried another such photograph as he left.

“Ambassador Erdan placed a picture of his grandmothers, survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp who both lost family members during the Holocaust, next to Israel’s sign on its table in the General Assembly Hall,” the statement said.

Israel’s desk at the United Nations with photographs showing Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan’s Holocaust-surviving grandmothers, which he placed as a protest during an address by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. (Israel Mission to UN)

Earlier this week, Raisi cast doubt on the Holocaust during an interview, saying the matter needed research.

“I showed Iran’s president a picture of my late grandmothers so he could see ‘a few more signs’ that the Holocaust happened and tell him that we will never allow the horrors that happened to us to happen again,” Erdan said in the statement.

He called on other envoys to also boycott Raisi’s address.

”This is a new moral low for the UN. A mass murderer who denies the Holocaust is allowed to spread his despicable hate on the UN platform,” Erdan said. “Any ambassador who stays in the hall to listen to him should be ashamed.”

Anti-regime protests

Hundreds of Iranian dissidents protested against Raisi outside the United Nations during his speech, as they have throughout the week, including by gathering outside of his New York hotel.

The anti-regime protesters, many from the MEK dissident group, said Raisi should be prosecuted for his role in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, and Iran’s ongoing human rights violations, including against protesters this week.

“He should not come to the UN. It’s so shameful he’s here because if he gets to the US he will be legitimized,” said activist Batool Zamani.

“Raisi does not deserve a seat at the UN,” said Raha Heshmatikhah. “Raisi should be prosecuted.”

Raisi’s UN speech came amid widespread protests in Iran against the regime, after a woman was arrested by the morality police for not properly covering her hair, then died in custody.

The protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini have spread across Iran in the past five days. Rights groups say Iranian security forces have killed at least six demonstrators.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

US bolsters Israel’s strategic Qualitative Military Edge 

September 16, 2022

1) U.S. and European officials express frustration after an Iranian response to a document, aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement, is labelled as “a step backwards”. 2) Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder says the IRGC’s attempt to steal a U.S. Naval Sale-drone earlier this week is indicative of Iranian behavior in the region for many years. 3) Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanks the United States for approving the sale of four aerial tankers – which will significantly ratchet-up Israel’s qualitative edge versus Iran.

In Iran, Israel Has Everyone Rattled

September 14, 2022

Article from July, has some very interesting details in it. Taken from 27 July 2022.

Ever since Israel introduced a computer worm into Iranian computers that caused more than a thousand Iranian centrifuges to speed up and destroy themselves, in an operation that has entered history as Stuxnet, Israel has been performing acts of derring-do that have, through cyberwarfare, sabotage, and assassinations, rattled Iran’s leaders. Between 2010 and 2012, four of Iran’s top nuclear scientists were assassinated, one after the other, in the middle of Tehran traffic, by a man (or sometimes two) on a motorbike who pulled up alongside their cars and let loose a volley of shots, then rode off through that traffic. None of the killers has been found. In 2018, 20 Mossad agents managed to break into a nondescript building in central Tehran, blast their way through 32 steel doors, and seize the entire nuclear archive of Iran, some 100,000 documents, which they managed to bring back to Israel for analysis, and also to share its information about heretofore unknown nuclear sites with the IAEA. In 2020 and 2021, Mossad agents again managed to sabotage nuclear facilities at Natanz; the second attack was on a facility that had been built deep underground. At the end of 2021 Mossad killed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the nuclear scientist who was regarded as the “godfather” of Iran’s nuclear program.

And in recent months, Israel has renewed its campaign of assassination, killing nearly a half-dozen high-ranking officials belonging mainly to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. A report on these latest Israeli acts, and their effect on Iranian morale, can be found here: “Iranian politician says Israel ‘freely runs its operations’ in Tehran,” Times of Israel, July 19, 2022:

An Iranian politician indicated that many in his country feel Israel is operating freely in Tehran and targeting security operations with ease.

In a report published Tuesday in the UK-based Financial Times, an official cited only as a “reformist politician” was quoted as saying that “it feels as if Israel has established a large-scale organization in Tehran and freely runs its operations.”

The politician added: “Israel is clearly targeting Iran’s ‘highly secure’ image to tarnish its greatness in people’s eyes.”

A series of assassinations and attacks in Iran have been attributed to Israel in recent months, though Jerusalem rarely if ever publicly takes credit for such operations. But in a rare interview last week — and rarer yet comments on Israeli activity in enemy countries — National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata said Israel had “acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year.”

The Financial Times report noted a feeling of “anxiety at the highest levels of the Iranian establishment” over the series of Israeli-attributed attacks. In late June, the IRGC replaced its longtime intelligence chief in a move seen by many as a reaction to the suspected assassinations.

Iran is running scared. Every other month, it seems, the Israelis manage to kill another high official, or to hit another nuclear or non-nuclear facility, or place malware on Iranian computers. in the past, Iran has several times claimed to have “unearthed” a Mossad cell, but no names are ever produced, no prisoners paraded to confess on camera, and nothing more is heard about these so-called Mossad agents. Most analysts suspect that Iran has yet to find a single Israeli agent.

Nevertheless, Iranian officials told the UK newspaper that they are not looking to directly escalate tensions at the moment.

Of course, the key words here from Iran are “not looking to directly” escalate tensions. The Iranians want to conduct their regional aggression not “directly,” but through their two closest proxies, the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. So far, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with 130,000 rockets and missiles that have been hidden in civilian areas all over southern Lebanon, and occasionally Hezbollah launches a rocket or drone toward Israel.

Iran’s policy remains to work with its proxy forces and we will not initiate any attacks against Israel if Israel doesn’t attack Lebanon,” a “regime insider” was quoted as saying. “It’s not wise for us to fight with Israel. And Zionists also show teeth to attack but their teeth are not sharp enough to go as far as striking Iran.”

Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of the IDF, would beg to differ. Israel has been striking Iran relentlessly all along: what was Stuxnet, what were those eight targeted assassinations, what was that repeated sabotage of nuclear facilities in Natanz and Fordo, what are the continuing mysterious explosions at petrochemical plants and electric plants all over Iran, aif not examples of Israel “striking at Iran”?

In a similar report in The New York Times late last month, Iranian officials told the newspaper that Israel’s operations have had drastic and long-lasting effects.

The security breaches inside Iran and the vast scope of operations by Israel have really undermined our most powerful intelligence organization,” said former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

Unnamed Iranian officials also said at the time that “Israel’s spy network has infiltrated deep into the rank and file of Iran’s security circles.”

The fear is palpable in the ruling circles in Tehran. They are no longer bothering to hide it. The nonstop success of Mossad in its sabotage and assassination efforts has demoralized the Iranians. The “drastic and long-lasting effects” of Israeli deeds has made clear to the Iranians that “Israel’s spy network has infiltrated deep into the rank and file of Iran’s security circles.” Sitting in Tehran, whom can the ayatollahs, or the IRGC commanders, trust? Israel keeps hitting them here, there, and everywhere. It never claims responsibility; it doesn’t have to. Everyone knows who has been behind these attacks. Everyone wonders who else is part of this Mossad network, what Iranians are working with Mossad to undermine and weaken the regime. High officials, including at least one IRGC commander, have been arrested in a panicky show of force, but nothing has been proved, and it seems the Iranians are announcing that “Israeli agents have been arrested” just to persuade the public that “something is being done.” But not a single trial has yet been held of supposed Mossad agents, none of those agents have been named or paraded before the public. Iranian officials are trying, but failing, to put on a brave face about Iran’s supposed imperviousness to Israeli attacks, even as the Mossad keeps running circles around it. They have no idea where the next Israeli strike, or act of sabotage, or assassination will take place. Iran’s top clerics and military men are now deeply suspicious of one another. Whom they can trust? In whom can they confide? Mossad appears to be, to use Flaubert’s famous phrase, “présent partout, et visible nulle part” – everywhere present, but nowhere to be seen.

Blinken: Iran ‘unwilling or unable’ to finalize nuclear talks, deal ‘unlikely’ 

September 13, 2022

Source: Blinken: Iran ‘unwilling or unable’ to finalize nuclear talks, deal ‘unlikely’ | The Times of Israel

US secretary of state accuses Tehran of introducing extraneous issues in negotiations; State Department denies Israeli claims US is giving up on the talks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, leave a joint news conference in Brussels on September 9, 2022, a day after US Secretary of State's unannounced visit to Ukraine. JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, leave a joint news conference in Brussels on September 9, 2022, a day after US Secretary of State’s unannounced visit to Ukraine. JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP)

In light of Iran’s latest reply to a draft proposal by the European Union, prospects for the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the near future are not looking good, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday evening.

“Iran seems either unwilling or unable to do what’s necessary to reach an agreement and they continue to try to introduce extraneous issues to the negotiations that make an agreement less likely,” Blinken said during a news conference in Mexico City.

The top US diplomat was in Mexico to advance talks on semiconductor supply cooperation and electric vehicle production. Speaking to reporters, Blinken answered questions about US support for Ukraine and ongoing efforts to secure a nuclear deal with Iran.

“What we’ve seen over the last week or so in Iran’s response to the proposal put forward by the European Union is clearly a step backward and makes prospects for an agreement in the near-term, I would say, unlikely,” he added, in comments reported by Bloomberg.

On Saturday, Blinken warned that Washington was “not about to agree to a deal that doesn’t meet our bottom-line requirements.”

While there had been initial optimism about prospects for reviving the nuclear deal in recent weeks, it has gradually dissipated, with world powers claiming that Iran made unreasonable demands at the last minute.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference after the High-Level Economic Dialogue Second Annual Meeting in Mexico City, September 12, 2022. (Raquel Cunha/Pool via AP)

On Sunday, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom issued a statement expressing “serious doubts” over Iran’s sincerity in seeking a nuclear agreement.

Earlier Monday, a State Department spokesperson denied claims made by a senior Israeli official that the US was giving up on the talks.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday called on the US and Europe to stop pursuing the “failed negotiations with Iran.” The senior official, who was traveling with Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s delegation to Berlin, said in a briefing with reporters that the “Americans decided to toughen up after the dialogue with the Israelis.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he added: “We gave information to the Europeans that proved that the Iranians are lying while talks are still happening.”

Denying the comments, a State Department statement stressed that the US remains committed to “continuing to seek a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] because President Biden is convinced that this is the best way to deliver on his commitment not to allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, and Prime Minister Yair Lapid during a visit of the House of the Wannsee Conference memorial in Berlin, Germany, on September 12, 2022. (ANNEGRET HILSE / POOL / AFP)

Israel has long opposed a revival of the 2015 accord, which has been moribund since then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions on Tehran. The administration claimed at the time that it would negotiate a better deal with Iran, but that effort never advanced.

Many of the US demands, such as clamping down on malign Iranian activities abroad, dovetailed with Israeli complaints about the 2015 JCPOA’s failings, but fell outside what Iran and much of the international community considered to be the scope of a possible deal.

A major sticking point has been Tehran’s insistence that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency drop a probe into unaccounted-for traces of enriched uranium at three sites in Iran, which the agency and the West have rebuffed out of hand.

Biden has also recognized that the original deal fails to address Iran’s ballistic missile program along with its malign activities abroad. However, he maintains that the JCPOA at least keeps Tehran’s nuclear program “in a box” and that other issues are only compounded when the program remains unrestrained.

Jacob Magid and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

Nuclear deal with Iran off the table for time being, US has indicated to Israel

September 7, 2022

Source: Nuclear deal with Iran off the table for time being, US has indicated to Israel | The Times of Israel

Message conveyed to PM Lapid in recent conversations with Biden and other US officials; Iranian demands to halt IAEA probes appear to have derailed talks

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid meet in Jerusalem, July 14, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid meet in Jerusalem, July 14, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

A new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is off the table and will not be signed in the foreseeable future, The Times of Israel’s sister site Zman Yisrael has learned. This is the message that was conveyed to Prime Minister Yair Lapid in his recent conversations with US President Joe Biden and other administration officials.

This emerging outcome of the nuclear negotiations, which would have major international implications, is likely to be touted by Lapid in the coming election campaign, particularly against opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly attacked the premier on the issue.

The potential new nuclear deal was at the center of Israel’s diplomatic and security consultations over the past year, with a concerned Jerusalem tracking the negotiations between Iran and representatives of the world powers in Vienna, as well as the exchange of draft agreements between the sides in recent weeks.

As Lapid became convinced in recent days that a deal was becoming increasingly unlikely, he reprioritized national security challenges to focus on escalating violence in the West Bank, the fight against terrorism and the urgent need to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as it increasingly loses clout.

The nuclear agreement that was being negotiated since Biden entered the White House in January 2021 focused on removing sanctions on Iran in exchange for limiting Tehran’s ability to reach the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

A technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, file)

According to American comments given to Walla news reporter Barak Ravid two weeks ago, Iran would need to give up all uranium enriched to 20% and 60% in its possession as part of the agreement. Hundreds of kilograms of enriched uranium would need to be removed from Iran or diluted. The centrifuges to enrich uranium would be removed and stored on Iranian soil at a warehouse under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Americans also said Iran would not be able to carry out any plutonium processing, which can be used for weapons purposes, and would redesign the plutonium reactor at Arak so it cannot produce material for a nuclear bomb.

Additionally, the Americans pledged that if a deal were signed, the International Atomic Energy Agency would be able to renew its strict monitoring of nuclear facilities in Iran, after it was significantly curtailed by the Iranians.

The IAEA monitoring is one of the major points of division that Israel has become involved in. The Iranians refused to let the IAEA continue its activities and the Americans insisted after Israeli pressure. Now a deal appears to be off the agenda.

The potential Iran deal has caused intense concern in Israel. Former prime minister Naftali Bennett appealed to the US administration last month to refrain from an accord. “I call on President Biden & the US administration to refrain, even now at this last minute, from signing the agreement with Iran,” Bennett tweeted on August 23.

“This agreement will send approximately a quarter of a trillion dollars to the Iranian terror administration’s pocket and to its regional proxies, and will enable Iran to develop, install and operate centrifuges, with almost no restrictions, in a mere two years,” he added.

“Throughout the past year, even when it was very close, we successfully convinced our White House counterparts not to give in to Iranian demands. I hope this will remain the case.”

Then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Mossad chief David Barnea meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

The emerging deal with Iran led to serious friction and arguments between Israel and the United States, and significant internal tensions in Jerusalem.

Two weeks ago, Mossad chief David Barnea briefed defense reporters and warned of the dangers of a restored nuclear deal. According to a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Barnea warned during a meeting with the prime minister that the deal would allow Iran to obtain significant capabilities.

According to Barnea, hundreds of billions of dollars would flow to Iran after the removal of sanctions. The money would serve to strengthen terror groups that encircle Israel, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Furthermore, he said the Iranians would accelerate their vision of a “Shia crescent” running from their border with Iraq to the Mediterranean, strengthening the Houthis in Yemen and pro-Iranian militias in the region. Barnea added that a deal would be a “strategic disaster” and declared it does not oblige Israel.

The Mossad head, who is currently in the United States for talks on the Iranian issue, was later reprimanded by Lapid for his direct criticism of the Americans.

Netanyahu, who dealt with Iran extensively during his years as prime minister, has maintained that the emerging deal was worse than the original signed in 2015 under then-US president Barack Obama.

A week and a half ago, Netanyahu invited himself for a security briefing with Lapid on the Iranian issue, as is his right by law as opposition leader. After the meeting, Netanyahu claimed Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz had fallen asleep at the wheel and that they were responsible for the “Iranian nuclear failure.” Netanyahu demanded that officials meet with members of Congress, influential officials and senior media figures in the US in an effort to thwart the deal.

On Monday, a senior government official said that “Netanyahu taught us exactly what not to do. In 2015, he went to Congress, spoke with senior government officials and the media, and we got the nuclear deal shoved in our faces.”

This time, the official said, “We worked quietly. We put in tremendous efforts and reached the opposite result.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid briefs opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu regarding Iran and the emerging nuclear deal, August 29, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

In a little over two weeks, Lapid will fly to participate in the UN General Assembly in New York. It is not yet clear whether he will meet with Biden while there. Biden is expected to be in New York on September 18-20; Lapid and his entourage will land there on the morning of September 20.

Lapid is due to speak at the General Assembly on Thursday, September 22, and Iran is expected to be at the center of his comments. Immediately after the speech, Lapid will quickly fly back to Israel to take part in his son Yoav’s wedding on Friday afternoon.

Russia said to tell Iran to leave Syrian sites amid rise in apparent Israeli strikes | The Times of Israel

September 2, 2022

Source: Russia said to tell Iran to leave Syrian sites amid rise in apparent Israeli strikes | The Times of Israel

Saudi-owned paper quotes Syrian officials as saying Moscow ordered Iran to leave bases in areas Russia sees as important, as it seeks stability

File: A fire is seen after an alleged airstrike near the Syrian city of Masyaf, on August 25, 2022. (Social media)

File: A fire is seen after an alleged airstrike near the Syrian city of Masyaf, on August 25, 2022. (Social media)

Russia has demanded that Iran and its militias withdraw from positions across Syria, amid an apparent uptick in airstrikes attributed to Israel in recent weeks, according to a Friday report.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily published in London, cited Syrian officials as saying Russian officers called on their Iranian counterparts during a Wednesday meeting at the Hama Military Airport in central Syria, to leave several sites in the country.

The report said the three Russian officers demanded they evacuate the Iranian military headquarters in the western Hama province, which is situated next to the Syrian army’s Regiment 49 base.

The base is considered an important military site to Syria, as it is used to store missiles for the S-200 air defense system, as well as other Russian-made military equipment, the report said.

Another site the Russian officers demanded the Iranians evacuate was close to the coastal city of al-Hamidiyah, south of Tartus, the report said. In July, Syria accused Israel of targeting a site in the town, in a rare morning airstrike.

File: A Russian navy missile ship ‘Veliky Ustyug’ sails off from the Russian naval facility in Tartus, Syria, on patrol in the Mediterranean, September 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

As a rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country in recent years. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanese Hezbollah.

A major airstrike last week targeted numerous buildings at a Syrian weapons base in the Masyaf area of Hama. The Scientific Studies and Research Center, known as CERS, has been reported to house an Iranian missile manufacturing plant.

Israeli strikes have continued in Syrian airspace, which is largely controlled by Russia, even as ties with Moscow have deteriorated in recent months. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

The most recent airstrike attributed to Israel occurred Wednesday night, when two major airports — one in the northern city of Aleppo and the second near the capital Damascus — were damaged.