Airstrikes, allegedly carried out by Israel, targeted dozens of sites in the Deir al-Zor region of eastern Syria and in Albukamal near the Syria-Iraq border on Tuesday night.
According to the reports, approximately 30 people were killed in the strikes.
The strikes were aimed at dozens of warehouses and sites belonging to pro-Iranian militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) throughout the area, according to local news source Deir EzZor 24.Two residents in the regional capital, Deir al-Zor City, said they could hear the distant sound of huge explosions, apparently from arms depots destroyed in the raids.
The IDF did not immediately comment. Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who spoke to KAN Bet, declined to discuss the specific reports but said that Israel hits Iranian targets in Syria “whenever our intelligence dictates it and according to our operational capability.”
While Syrian state media and Iranian media have refrained from reporting on casualties, large numbers of ambulances were reported in the area soon after the strike. Independent reports on the number of casualties ranged between 25 and 50.
Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news cited a security source in Baghdad who stated that there were no casualties, as the sites that were targeted were evacuated beforehand, but it also reported that ambulances rushed to the scene to transport people who were wounded in the strikes.Regional media described the strikes as some of the largest and most intense in eastern Syria in recent years. Images from the site showed a number of buildings had been completely destroyed.
A regional intelligence source said the targets included Syrian security compounds inside Albukamal and Deir al-Zor, while in the past raids had struck only the cities’ outskirts.
The latest raids were notable for having hit “advanced weaponry and weapons depots… in a large combat arena,” the regional intelligence source said.
According to the Step News Agency, strikes by unidentified aircraft, believed to be affiliated with the international coalition, targeted sites belonging to the IRGC in Albukamal also on Tuesday.
Sites belonging to Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias in the Deir al-Zor area have been hit repeatedly by airstrikes, often by “unidentified aircraft,” in recent years.
The strikes were based on intelligence provided by the United States and were aimed at warehouses storing Iranian weapons and components for Iran’s nuclear program, an American intelligence source told The Associated Press early Wednesday.
The US official, who spoke to AP anonymously, claimed that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the strike with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen during a meeting that the two held in the US capital this week. They were spotted dining on Monday at Cafe Milano in Washington, DC.
INSS director-general and former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin tweeted that the strikes served as a reminder to Iran that Israel will not stop fighting to stop Iranian activity in Syria, even during the Biden administration.
The strikes also served to remind Syria that “there is a heavy price for the free hand you give to the Iranians in Syria,” and to remind the incoming Biden administration that the challenge from Iran includes conventional military threats, not just the nuclear issue, added Yadlin.
While it remains unclear whether the strikes had any direct connection to threats by Iran to retaliate against assassinations and attacks blamed on Israel, Yadlin stressed that “in light of the results of the significant strike [on Tuesday night], Iran’s ‘open account’ with Israel will swell.”
This is the third alleged Israeli airstrike reported in Syria in the past three weeks.
Last week, an airstrike targeted locations in southern Syria, and explosions were heard in the skies over Damascus. The strike reportedly targeted weapons depots, observation points and radar sites belonging to the Syrian military and pro-regime militias.
In December, two strikes targeted sites near the Lebanon-Syria border in al-Zabadani and Masyaf.THE AIRSTRIKES come amid the last days of US President Donald Trump’s administration, with some analysts concerned that Israel and the US could try to carry out military action against Iran before the Biden administration enters the White House.
The IDF has reportedly increased air defenses in the Eilat area and remains on alert along the northern border due to concerns that Iran could carry out an attack against Israel from Lebanon, Syria or Yemen. Tensions have been high in light of an alleged Israeli airstrike last year in which a Hezbollah terrorist was killed and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Iranian officials accuse Israel of conducting.
Iran also recently marked the one-year anniversary since the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, and officials threatened to carry out revenge attacks on American and Israeli targets in the region.
Reuters contributed to this report.