Syrian army says Israeli jets attacked Homs air base

By Suleimani Al-Khalidi | Reuters

AMMAN – The Syrian army said on Tuesday Israeli jets attacked the main T4 air base in Homs province, saying its air defenses downed several missiles in strikes that caused only material damage.

An army spokesman told state media that four Israeli missiles did reach the base, but said air defenses intercepted several others.

State television earlier did not say who was behind the attack on the major air base, which Israel accuses of hosting an Iranian military presence and has attacked several times in recent years.

“The Israeli airforce conducted new aerial aggression and immediately our air defenses confronted the enemy missiles,” an army statement said.

The Syrian army statement said the Israeli war jets flew from Tanf, to the southeast, where the United States has set up a base near the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

Tanf lies on the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, a major supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria. This makes the base a bulwark against Iran and part of a larger U.S. campaign against Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria.

Israel has repeatedly bombed Iranian backed militia targets in Syria, saying its goal was to end Tehran’s military presence which Western intelligence sources say has expanded in recent years in the war-torn country.

The Israel Defence Force did not immediately comment on the attack.

Tuesday’s strikes are the first which Syria accused Israel of undertaking since the United States killed Iran’s most powerful military commander in a drone strike on Jan. 3, sparking one of the biggest escalations between Tehran and Washington since 1979.

Iran’s proxy militias led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah now hold sway in vast areas in eastern and southern Syria and northwest as well as several suburbs around the capital.

They have also entrenched themselves in the strategically located border town of AlbuKamal on the Euphrates river in Deir Zor district in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq where Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary groups have a strong foothold.

Western intelligence sources say Israel has been behind several strikes against Iranian assets in the border area in recent weeks.

The Iraqi side of the border had seen the deployment in large numbers of Iran-allied Iraqi Shi’ite militias who now de facto control large stretches of the frontier, with posts not far from military bases housing U.S. troops.

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