Alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted a research center and a military base in Syria on Monday night where Iranian militias are based, the fifth such strike in two weeks, according to Syrian media. Further airstrikes by unidentified aircraft on Iranian militias were reported near the Syria-Iraq border shortly after.
A source from the Syrian military told the Syrian state news agency SANA that “hostile aircraft” coming from Al-Thawrah, southeast of Aleppo, attacked military depots in the Al-Safira area. Syrian air defenses were activated in response. Earlier, SANA reported that the scientific research center in Aleppo was targeted in the strikes.
While the airstrikes on Monday came from the direction of Jordan and Iraq, the other airstrikes in recent weeks came from the direction of Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
A Syrian security source told the Russian Sputnik news agency that airstrikes by Israeli aircraft targeted two military sites in Aleppo from airspace along the Syrian border east of the Euphrates River over areas controlled by the international coalition and Kurdish militias. The source added that the strikes were carried out over the area of the US-controlled Al-Tanf base located in southeast Syria near the borders with Iraq and Jordan.
Some 12 missiles were fired at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in Aleppo during the airstrikes, reported Al-Arabiya, adding that the research center is believed by Israel to be cooperating with Iran to develop missile technologies.
Sources for Al-Arabiya added that five of the missiles hit the research center, “completely destroying it.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that airstrikes that were likely carried out by Israel targeted the scientific research center in Aleppo where both Iranian militias and Syrian forces are based, destroying ammunition depots in the area.
The Scientific Studies and Research Center is one of several facilities where Western intelligence and opposition sources suspect Syria, with the help of Iranian researchers, is working on developing chemical weapons they accuse Syria of having used against civilians in rebel-held areas.
Western intelligence sources say Iranian-backed militias have long been entrenched in Aleppo province where they have bases and a command center and installed advanced weapons, part of a growing presence across government-controlled Syria.
Aleppo was targeted by alleged Israeli airstrikes last year in March as well.
Shortly after the strikes in Aleppo, additional airstrikes by unidentified aircraft were carried out in Al-Mayadeen in the Deir Ezzor area located near the Syria-Iraq border.
“Powerful explosions” were heard from the city of Al-Mayadeen to Al-Bukamal and over 15 explosions were heard east of the Euphrates in strikes by unidentified aircraft on Monday night, according to local news source DeirEzzor24.
Fourteen Iranians and Iran-backed militants were killed in the alleged Israeli airstrikes in Deir Ezzor last night, according to SOHR. The death toll is expected to rise as injuries were reported with some in critical conditions.
Multiple airstrikes have targeted Iranian forces and militias in eastern Syria in the past few months. A strategic border crossing between Iraq and Syria and the Iranian-controlled Imam Ali military base is located in the border town of Al-Bukamal.
The airspace over the Golan Heights east of the Jordan River was closed to flights over 5,000 ft. on Monday night and will stay closed until next month.
The airstrikes mark the fifth airstrikes blamed on Israel targeting Syria in the past two weeks.
Two alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted both western and southern Syria within a matter of hours on Thursday night and Friday. Multiple targets in the Quneitra region and Daraa in southern Syria were struck on Thursday night.
On Friday morning, explosions were reported in the southern area of Homs after an “attack,” said the governor of the Homs Governorate to the Syrian state news agency SANA. According to SOHR, an Israeli missile strike on Friday morning targeted an ammunition warehouse and missiles belonging to Hezbollah, at the Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham camp on the road between Homs and Palmyra.
A Syrian military source later denied that an attack had occurred, saying that the explosions were caused by “human error.”
Unidentified aircraft also targeted Iran-backed militias on Thursday near Al-Bukamal, according to the opposition-affiliated TV station Halab Today. Militants were killed and wounded in the strikes.
The Damascus area was targeted by alleged Israeli airstrikes last week as well, resulting in the deaths of at least seven people, including four operatives and three civilians.
A regional intelligence source said Israel was stepping up raids in Syria at a time when world attention and the region, including Syria, were distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel is not lowering its guard and is “more determined” than Iran, adding that he “wouldn't say that it's been good for [Iran, Hezbollah and Syria] recently.
“For Iran, Syria is an adventure far from home: 1,000 km. from home, from the Golan Heights. For us, it’s life,” Bennett said. “Iranian soldiers who come to Syria and operate within Syria: Their blood is on their hands. They are risking their lives and paying with their lives. We will not allow the establishment of an advanced Iranian base in Syria.”Tamar Beeri and Reuters contributed to this report.