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Israeli IDF attack south of Damascus, Syria Aug. 25, 2019.(Photo by: SCREENSHOT/YEDIOT M'HASHETACH)
How Iranian regime media respond to Israeli airstrikes
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
08/25/2019
Major outlets regularly report on tensions with Israel, often repeating what officials say
Iranian media in Farsi responded to the airstrikes in Syria Saturday night initially with silence, and then with an array of analysis and claims. The major outlets in Iran regularly report on tensions with Israel, often repeating what officials say, but also providing some analysis and differences.

Fars News had a long analysis about the “Zionists unprecedented acknowledgment” of the attack. This article said eight explosions were heard near Damascus, and that air defense near Mezzeh military airport engaged the incoming missiles. It claimed that Israel deployed the Iron Dome defense system, and that “Zionist air force squads” were warned to “fear Iran, Syria and Hezbollah response.” It asserted that Israeli fighters were “continuing to fly in Lebanese airspace,” and claimed that Israel’s response was largely propaganda.

Tasnim News had a very short report, quoting Syria’s state SANA media and noting that Syrian air defense had intercepted “targets.” It said there was an explosion in Damascus and claimed the airport was targeted.

“SANA reported that Syrian air defense had shot down all the missiles,” Tasnim said, and then quoted a “spokesman for the Zionist army,” which it noted had acknowledged the attack. It then noted that the attack was aimed at Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force operations, Shi’ite militias and UAVs or drones. It noted this only in relation to claims that Israel asserted these were the targets, without any further elaboration.

Mehr News reported explosions near the Syrian capital, and also repeated the counterclaims of Syria and Israel. “This is not the first time such an air strike has taken place,” the report said, mentioning an attack in July. “It should be noted that earlier, Zionist regime officials have acknowledged the ‘hundreds’ of air strikes against Syria.” It said the airstrikes were aimed at countering “alleged Iranian presence” and affiliated forces of Iran. Four were killed and others injured. Syria condemned the strikes, said Mehr, which also had an article noting that Iran was prepared to confront possible threats.

Press TV in English reported the attack by repeating Syria’s claims to have downed the missiles. It also quoted IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus: “Israel has launched recurrent attacks on Syria in defiance of international laws.”

It noted that the attacks were against forces linked to Iran, and that the “Israeli attacks come as Syrian military forces are taking back control of more territories from terrorists.” The latter is a reference to Syrian regime offensives in northern Syria. PressTV asserts that Israel is a “sympathizer of terrorism,” and that Israel was “unhappy at the progress made by the Syrian army and allies.”

Press TV also claimed that Iranian sites were not struck, repeating a claim aired across Iranian media on Sunday afternoon.

ISNA news, the Iranian Student News Agency, did not appear to report the airstrikes by the morning of August 25 and neither did IRNA, the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The reports in general indicated an interest in contrasting Israeli claims with Syrian assertions. This leaves readers curious as to whether Syria exaggerated its air defense capabilities, which likely leaves Farsi readers, even those supportive of the government in Tehran, wondering if their Syrian ally is trustworthy.

The reports also appeared to hint at Iranian involvement in southern Syria and give credence to Israel’s claims, even if the articles hid those claims behind references to the “Zionist regime.” Anyone reading the reports got a sense that the bulk of the details show Israel has carried out the strikes that Israel said it did and that they did inflict damage.
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