Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps's al Quds Force personally oversaw the training, funding and preparation for the drone attack that the IDF thwarted late Saturday night, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said on Sunday.
According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis the IDF was able to stop the cell and was ordered last night to strike Aqraba early Sunday morning after they received intelligence that the attack would happen on Sunday.The drones, he said, were similar to the kind used by the Houthis in Yemen against Saudi Arabia. Each of the drones was capable of carrying several kilograms of explosives and was supposed to be operated by a group of Iranian pilots who arrived specially in Syria several days ago for the mission. Manelis said that the airstrikes struck several targets in Aqraba where there was the presence of Quds Force and Shiite militia troops, equipment and Iranian missiles. The IDF was placed on high alert ahead of a possible retaliation after IDF aircraft struck Iranian targets in Syria overnight Saturday thwarting an imminent attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force killing two Hezbollah militants and one Iranian.
דובר צה"ל:"מתווה הפיגוע שסוכל שכלל בתכנון שיגור מספר רחפנים חמושים נגד מטרות ישראליות.צה"ל נמצא במוכנות גבוהה להמשך הגנה ופעולה ככל שיידרשו נגד כוונות לפיגוע נגד מדינת ישראל ורואה באיראן ובמשטר הסורי אחראים ישירים לניסיון הפיגוע שסוכל".(סרטון שיוצא עכשיו בסוריה) pic.twitter.com/zo761VOZZS— שמעון ארן شمعون آران (@simonarann) August 24, 2019
A senior IRGC official denied that any of their posts in Syria were struck last night."This is a lie and not true. ..Israel and the United States do not have the power to attack Iran's various centres, and our (military) advisory centres have not been harmed," Revolutionary Guards Major General Mohsen Rezaei was quoted by Iran’s ILNA.Nevertheless Hezbollah affiliated Twitter accounts released pictures of two of five militants killed in the strike. They were identified as Yasser Ahmad Al Dhaher and Youssef Zbeeb.While no bomb shelters in northern Israel have been opened, following the airstrikes the military updated the Golan and Katzerin regional councils of the attack. Iron Dome batteries have also been deployed to the north and all squadron bases have been placed on high alert for any Syrian-Iranian response against Israel.“The IDF is in high readiness to continue both defensive and offensive actions as necessary against the plans to attack the State of Israel,” Manelis said on a phone call to reporters from the Air Force pit in Tel Aviv, adding that the military “sees Iran and the Syrian regime directly responsible for the attempted terror attack.”Earlier on Saturday Syria’s SANA news agency reported that regime defenses intercepted “hostile targets” in the skies of Damascus.
Last year, an armed Iranian drone armed with explosives infiltrated into Israeli skies to carry out a sabotage attack against the Jewish state.The advanced Iranian drone, believed to be a copy of a US stealth drone that was downed in Iran in 2011, took off from the T-4 airbase deep in the Syrian province of Homs and crossed into Israeli territory via Jordanian airspace.The drone was spotted by Israel and was intercepted near the Israeli town of Beit She’an by an Apache attack helicopter.Following the infiltration, Israeli jets took off to strike the drone's launch site as well as the control vehicle which guided it into Israeli territory; they were met by massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Over 20 missiles were launched toward the Israelis jets from SA-5 and SA-17 batteries.Pilots of one of the Israeli F16s ejected from their jet, which crashed in the lower Galilee after being hit by shrapnel from the Syrian anti-aircraft fire. The pilots landed inside Israel and were evacuated to Rambam hospital in Haifa. Both have since been released and have returned to flight duty.It was the first time in 30 years that an Israeli jet was lost in a combat situation, leading to an extensive retaliation by Israel with additional strikes against both the Syrian missile batteries and Iranian military targets in the war-torn country.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.