Israel struck Iranian targets near Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s home region and near major Russian bases on the Mediterranean coast on Sunday, Syrian military and regional intelligence sources said.
The Syrian army said earlier that three servicemen were killed and three others wounded in two simultaneous Israeli strikes south of Tartus province, and another on the capital of Damascus. He did not elaborate on the specific locations.
The attacks on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus hit outposts run by the pro-Iranian Lebanese group Hezbollah, two Syrian military defectors familiar with the region said.
A Syrian army officer in the coastal region of Tartus told Reuters on condition of anonymity that an Iranian base near the village of Abu Afsa, south of the port city, was attacked along with a nearby air and radar defense station.
Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks against alleged Iranian targets in recent years, but has mostly avoided hitting coastal provinces, where Russia’s main military assets are concentrated.
The latest attacks are part of an escalation of what has been a low-intensity conflict aimed at curbing Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria, according to Israeli and regional military experts.
The attacks occurred near the Only Russian Navy base in the Mediterranean, in the port of Tartus, where Russian warships are docked, while the important Moscow air base of Hmeimim is also located in the nearby province of Latakia.
Russia’s intervention, along with Iran, helped turn the tables in Assad’s favor in a conflict that has lasted more than a decade.
The coastal areas are mainly inhabited by Assad’s minority Alawite sect, which dominates the upper echelons of power in the security forces and army.
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 Ukraine war and the latter’s scrutiny of a Jewish emigration agency.
Israel said last month that its military jets were subjected to Russian anti-aircraft fire over Syria in May but failed to hit their target, describing the clash as an “isolated incident.”
Syria blamed Israel for major attacks on its main damascus international airport last June, which severely damaged runways and forced flights to be suspended for several weeks.
Israeli defense officials claim the civilian airport has been regularly used by Iran to transport weapons and militias.