JERUSALEM (JTA) — A senior Israeli military official confirmed that Israel carried out the airstrikes in Syria that struck Iranian military installations.
“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” the unnamed Israeli military source told New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.
Israel has not officially taken responsibility for the airstrikes.
Friedman reported his Sunday column from the Golan Heights on the Israeli border with Syria.
The official referenced the Iranian drone that infiltrated into Israeli airspace in February, which was shot down by Israel and led to an Israeli retaliatory raid. Israel on Friday announced that the drone had been loaded with explosives and was on an attack mission, not a mission for reconnaissance.
“This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” the senior Israeli military source told Friedman. “This opened a new period.”
Friedman pointed out in his column that Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel. But Friedman notes that Israel has no designs on Syria, saying Israel “actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos. And it has not intervened in the civil war there except to prevent the expansion of Iran’s military infrastructure there or to retaliate for rebel or Syrian shells that fell on Israel’s territory.”
Friedman continues: “Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.”
Friedman notes that senior Israeli defense officials “have let it be known that if the Iranians were to strike back at Israeli targets, Israel may use the opportunity to make a massive counterstrike on Iran’s entire military infrastructure in Syria, where Iran is attempting to establish both a forward air base, as well as a factory for GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets inside Israel with much greater accuracy — inside a 50-meter radius — and deploy them from Syria and with Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
He concludes: “Unless (Iran’s military mastermind Qassem) Suleimani backs down, you are about to see in Syria an unstoppable force — Iran’s Quds Force — meet an immovable object: Israel.”