Israeli aircraft struck Iranian forces near Damascus planning to launch “killer drones” at targets in Israel, an Israeli military spokesman said.
“The strike targeted Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias preparing attack plans targeting sites in Israel from Syria ,” the military said in a statement.
The elite Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters the forces were preparing to launch “killer drones” with explosives at northern Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military thwarted the planned Iranian attack. “Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression,” he said on Twitter.
Syrian state media said Syrian air defences intercepted “hostile targets” over Damascus.
Witnesses heard and saw explosions in the sky.
“The aggression is ongoing and air defences are confronting hostile targets and downing most of them in the southern region,” state media outlet SANA said, indicating areas south of Damascus.
The Syrian army said in a statement“the majority of Israeli missiles were destroyed before reaching target.” Conricus said the impact of the Israeli strikes was “significant.”
Israel carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against Iranian targets trying to establish a permanent military presence and against advanced weapon shipments to Tehran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
Iran and Hezbollah are helping President Bashar al-Assad in the eight-year Syria war. Russia, also aiding Assad, has turned a blind eye to Israeli air strikes.
Last week Netanyahu hinted atpossible Israeli involvement in a series of blasts that hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many backed by Iran.
On Wednesday, the PMF, the umbrella grouping of Iraq’s mostly Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary groups, said the United States allowed four Israeli drones accompanying US forces to carry out missions on Iraqi territory.
The US-led coalition, in Iraq to fight remnants of the Islamic State group, dismissed the statement and the Pentagon denied it.