Large explosions were reported at an Iranian base in Al-Bukamal in eastern Syria after unidentified aircraft targeted a weapons depot at the site, according to the Step news agency.
A correspondent for Step reported that Iranian militias fired anti-aircraft fire at a reconnaissance aircraft that was spotted shortly before the attack. Shortly afterwards, unidentified aircraft attacked the weapons depot and large explosions were heard and fire could be seen from a distance.
No information about the extent of the damage or any casualties has been reported.
During a visit to Lisbon, Portugal on Wednesday in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu pointed to Iranian activity in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza and Yemen, and said that Israel is “actively engaged in countering that aggression.”When asked about the recent explosions heard in a Syrian weapons facility, Netanyahu chose to evade the question by saying "I don't comment on these kinds of things."
Sites controlled by Iran in the Al-Bukamal area have been targeted multiple times by airstrikes in recent months. A strategic border crossing between Iraq and Syria is located in the border town.
In November, the IDF struck tens of targets in Damascus, west of Damascus and the Syrian Golan Heights, belonging both to the regime of Bashar Assad and the Quds Force, within minutes in response to rockets that were launched towards Israel. All the targets were located within 80 km. of Israel’s border.
According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 23 people, including 16 non-Syrians, most likely Iranians, were killed in the Israeli airstrikes. A senior Israeli defense official acknowledged that there were wounded and a number of Iranian fatalities. Numerous others were wounded, including a young woman who was wounded by shrapnel that hit the suburb of Qudsaya, west of Damascus.Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said following the strikes that “the rules have changed: Anyone who shoots at the State of Israel during the day will not sleep at night. Like last week and now this week. Our message to Iran’s leaders is simple: You are no longer immune. Wherever you stretch your tentacles – we will hack them off. The IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens.”
Iranian forces and militias loyal to them are fortifying their positions in the Deir ez-Zor area in eastern Syria where Al-Bukamal is located, according to the SOHR. In September, at least 37 militants were killed in two airstrikes which also destroyed vehicles, ammunition depots, weapons and buildings in the Al-Bukamal area. Many of those killed were of Iraqi nationality.
In September, Fox News reported that Iran was building a classified military base near Al-Bukamal, less than 200 miles from an American position, with the intention of housing thousands of troops.
According to the report, the classified Iranian project is called the Imam Ali compound and is being completed by the IRGC. At least five different, newly constructed buildings surrounded by large dirt mounds could house precision missiles, Fox said. The other 10 less fortified storehouses in the base will likely hold ammunition.
The attacks in the Al-Bukamal area have been blamed on both Israel and Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi fighter jets have been spotted along with other fighter jets that have attacked facilities and positions belonging to Iranian militias," said an unnamed source to the Independent in Arabic. The attacks targeted positions belonging to the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Albukamal and other areas near the Iraq-Syria border.
Saudi sources later denied the report, according to the Independent.
On September 9, airstrikes allegedly carried out by Israel destroyed a military base in the area under Iranian control, according to the SOHR.
Rockets were fired at Israel from the outskirts of Damascus by a Shi’ite militia operating under the command of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force after the attack on September 9.
Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post Staff and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.