Iran still has long-range capabilities to strike Israel, a senior officer in the Israel Air Force said on Thursday, even though “every target we wanted to hit was struck and destroyed.”
The IAF carried out “House of Cards,” its most extensive operation in Syria since 1974 before dawn on Thursday, striking more than 50 Iranian targets in Syria following a missile barrage fired at the Jewish state around midnight.
According to the officer, dozens of positions and targets in Syria belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force – including the launcher used to fire the rockets at Israel’s Golan Heights – were destroyed within one-and-a-half hours by the IAF and the IDF Northern Command.
During the Israeli retaliation, the Assad regime fired dozens of air-defense missiles from SA-2, SA-17, SA-22 and SA-5 batteries. No Israeli jets were hit and all returned to base safely.
Incoming rocket sirens were activated at 12:10 Thursday morning in the northern Golan Heights communities of Majdal Shams, Neveh Ativ, Nimrod, Mas’ada, Bukata, Odem and Elrom. Israel’s air-defense systems, including Iron Dome and David Sling batteries, which were deployed to the Northern several weeks ago, intercepted four of 20 rockets the Iranians fired toward the Golan, and the remaining 16 hit in Syrian territory.
“Even though the attack [by Iran] was not successful, it was a very serious incident,” the senior officer said. “We will continue to act against Iran in Syrian territory. Syria was hit very hard last night, and I am sure that they understand that Israel will not accept it [the Iranian attack].”
According to the senior officer, if Syria interferes during an Israeli operation, even with the Russian-made, advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system, they will be hit, “it’s that simple.
“The Iranian motivation to bring advanced air-defense systems to Syria exists, and we will take care of it,” he said.
Moscow was informed ahead of Israel’s retaliatory strikes, but not where and at what targets, and the Americans were informed as well.
Israel has been preparing for a direct attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps since mid-April in response to a strike allegedly carried out by the Jewish state against an Iranian-operated air base in Syria that killed seven IRGC soldiers.
The IAF had received extensive intelligence several days earlier about the Quds Force in Syria planning an attack on Israel and is reported to have carried out a preventative strike on a base in Kisweh, outside Damascus, effectively thwarting the attack. It is believed that due to that strike Iran implemented its backup plan, firing the 20 Fajr-5 and Grad missiles toward Israel at midnight on Thursday.
Due to the increased threat of an Iranian attack, the IDF raised troops’ preparedness and called up reservists serving in specific roles in the military. According to the senior IAF officer, some of those reservists took part in Thursday’s operation.
“We are onto the next stage,” the senior officer said, adding that “while we don’t know what is next, we are preparing for all scenarios regarding Iran in Syria, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, and of course what is happening in the South.”