Israeli strikes hit Iranian targets near Russian Mediterranean bases


AMMAN, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Israel hit Iranian targets on Sunday in a series of strikes near Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s home region and near major Russian Syrian bases on the Mediterranean coast, sources said. Syrian regional intelligence and military sources said. .

The Syrian army said earlier that three soldiers had been killed and three wounded in two simultaneous Israeli attacks south of the province of Tartous, and another on the capital Damascus. He gave no details about the specific locations.

The strikes in the northeastern outskirts of Damascus hit outposts run by the pro-Iranian Lebanese group Hezbollah, said two Syrian military defectors familiar with the area.

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A Syrian army officer in the coastal region of Tartous told Reuters on condition of anonymity that an Iranian base near the village of Abu Afsa, south of the port city, was targeted next to a air defense station and radar nearby.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes against suspected Iranian targets in recent years, but has mostly avoided hitting coastal provinces where Russia’s main military assets are concentrated.

The latest strikes are part of an escalation in what has been a low-intensity conflict aimed at slowing Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria, according to Israeli and regional military experts.

The strikes were close to the Russian Navy’s only Mediterranean base in the port of Tartous where Russian warships are moored, while Moscow’s main Hmeimim air base is also in neighboring Latakia province.

Russia’s intervention alongside Iran helped turn the tide in Assad’s favor in a conflict over a decade old.

The coastal areas are inhabited mainly by the minority Alawite sect of Assad who dominate the upper echelons of power in the security forces and military.

Russian forces in Syria regularly turn a blind eye to Israeli airstrikes against alleged Iranian-sponsored deployments and arms transfers.

But tensions have risen between Israel and Russia over the former’s condemnation of the war in Ukraine and the latter’s scrutiny of a Jewish emigration agency. Read more

Last month, Israel said its warplanes came under Russian anti-aircraft fire over Syria in May but missed their target, describing the confrontation as a “one-off incident”.

Syria blamed Israel for major strikes on its main international airport in Damascus last June, which severely damaged runways and forced flights to stop for several weeks.

Israeli defense officials say the civilian airport has been regularly used by Iran to transport weapons and militias.

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Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah; and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem Editing by Alexander Smith, Nick Macfie and Diane Craft

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