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Iran expends great effort to guard against Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Israel began conducting airstrikes in Syria in 2011, but the Israeli Defense Forces only rarely publicly acknowledges the existence of the campaign

Illustrative - A streak of light is seen in the night sky in the vicinity of the Syrian capital Damascus during what Syrian authorities said was an Israeli air strike, in this handout released by state news agency SANA on Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo: SANA/Handout via Reuters)

The Islamic Republic of Iran directed significant resources over the past two years to protect against Israeli airstrikes on Iran’s interests in Syria, Newsweek reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed intelligence source from a United States ally.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Iran has spent tens of millions of dollars to deploy air defense systems to protect its Syria-based military sites and its weapons transfers to its regional proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel’s air campaign in Syria is considered part of the “war between wars” and has targeted “Iranian military assets and interests in the Syrian territory that threaten Israel,” according to the source. 

Israel began conducting airstrikes in Syria in 2011, but the Israeli Defense Forces only rarely publicly acknowledges the existence of the campaign.

The Newsweek source revealed that the Iranian endeavors against the Israeli airstrikes are carried out in cooperation with Syrian forces, but with a view to enabling Iran to operate the systems independently.

“The promotion of these capabilities is carried out as a project shared with the Syrian Army and possibly even with the aim of enabling independent Iranian operation of the aerial defense systems from within parts of Syria,” the source said. “In addition, the Iranians assisted the Syrians in upgrading their radar array, designed to aid in detection and prevention of Israeli attacks – mainly against the Iranian establishment in Syria.”

The aerial defense systems include Iranian-produced Bavar-373 surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, which Iranian officials claim have a range of about 300 kilometers and are capable of shooting down Israel’s advanced fighter jets, when paired with Iran’s Sayyad (Hunter) 4B solid-propellant missile. The Iranian military unveiled the missile at a November ceremony. 

According to Newsweek, Iranian officials claim their domestically produced air defense system is superior to the U.S.’ Patriot SAM system and Russia’s S-300 SAM system.

The source claimed that Israel struck Iranian sites in Palmyra and Tartus in October 2021, Latakia in December 2021, Damascus in March 2022, Tartus in July, and Homs in November and December.

The source said that Israeli airstrikes have killed 10 Iranians over the past two years, including Morteza Saeednejad and Ahsan Karbala’i-pour, believed to be air defense engineers. Both died during Israel’s strike on Damascus in March, leading Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to vow to avenge them.

U.S. Central Command spokesperson Maj. John Moore did not deny or confirm Iran’s attempts at curbing Israeli airstrikes on its Syria-based infrastructure, saying that the U.S. does not wish to engage in speculation.

“We’re not going to speculate on Iranian intentions regarding changes to their offensive or defensive capabilities,” Moore said. Nevertheless, he added that “it’s widely known that Iran is one of the biggest destabilizing threats to the region,” and that “Israel has a wide range of options to defend their country.”

While on a recent visit to the Jewish state’s northern border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran against crossing Israel’s “red lines.”

“The main enemy we are facing is the terror regime in Iran and its satellites in Syria and Lebanon,” Netanyahu said. 

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

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