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Assad claims Israel struck Syrian forces under ‘pretext of Iranian presence’

Syrian president claims strikes will continue ‘as long as Israel is an enemy’

Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad (Photo: Syrian Presidency)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a rare interview with Sky News Arabia Wednesday, in which he disputed Israeli claims of strikes on Iranian forces in his country.

“Israeli strikes on Syria are directed against the Syrian army under the pretext of the Iranian presence,” Assad told Sky News.

“The attacks will continue as long as Israel is an enemy.”

Over the last few years, Israel has consistently carried out airstrikes against a variety of military sites in Syria. The most recent strike took place overnight on Sunday.

While Israel does not comment on individual strikes, military and civilian leadership have said the strikes are aimed at Iranian forces, primarily Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces.

Israel said it has no intention of escalating the conflict with Syria. 

However, the Jewish state has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syrian territory.

The Syrian regime disputes claims about an extensive Iranian military presence in the country, however, regional analysts say Iran is heavily involved in Syria and continues to pursue its long-term strategic objectives.

Tal Beeri, head of the Alma Research and Education Center in northern Israel, recently wrote an article for Israel’s Channel 7, arguing that Iranian-backed militias have been attempting to take over command of the Syrian army.

The report details how Syrian army groups and Iranian militias operate together, often under the same chain of command, and share information, such as locations of storage sites and weapons depots.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented most of those airstrikes and supports Israeli claims of Iranian-affiliated personnel and equipment at most of the strike locations.

SOHR has documented 22 Israeli strikes in Syria in 2023 alone. According to their figures, Israeli strikes this year have killed 42 Syrian military members, 22 Iranian-backed non-Syrian militia members, 6 IRGC members, 4 Iranian-backed Syrian militia members, and 3 members of the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. 

SOHR has recorded only two civilian deaths due to the attacks but reported an undisclosed number of civilian injuries.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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