Israel has reportedly carried out another pre-emptive strike on an Iranian-linked military base in Syria, shortly after Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday.
The attack – the third alleged Israeli strike on Iranian forces in Syria in the past month – further ratchets up the tensions between the bitter enemies, which observers fear could soon boil over into a new Middle Eastern conflict.
Syrian state media reported that its air defenses had shot down two Israeli missiles targeting al-Kiswah, an industrial area about 10 km (6 miles) southwest of Damascus that’s home to a Syrian army base. The U.K.-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the missiles struck weapons depots and missile launchers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, killing at least eight Iranians and seven other pro-regime fighters.
In keeping with its standard policy on alleged strikes in Syria, Israel refused to confirm or deny the strikes. But they came after Israel’s military said Tuesday that it was on high alert after detecting “irregular activity of Iranian forces” in Syria, and ordered bomb shelters in northern Israel to open in preparation for potential Iranian strikes.
Syria previously accused Israel of hitting the al-Kiswah base in December, after a warning from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to allow Iran to establish military bases in the country.
Tensions between Israel and Iran have been ramping up in recent months amid a series of suspected Israeli attacks on Iranian forces in Syria. Israel is concerned about Iran’s growing military presence in Syria, which borders its territory, and has vowed to stop it entrenching its forces there. Israel has also been leading the charge to kill the Iran nuclear deal; last month, Netanyahu presented what he claimed was evidence that Iran had kept and expanded its nuclear weapons knowledge after signing the landmark 2015 agreement.
Trump referenced the Israeli evidence in announcing his decision to pull out of the deal Tuesday.
Israel has been braced for retaliation since it allegedly carried out strikes on the T4 military base in central Syria on April 9, in which seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards were reportedly killed. Iran, Syria, and Russia accused Israel of carrying out the strike, and Iran’s military vowed revenge. On April 29, Israel allegedly followed up with a missile strike on an Iranian missile depot near the Syrian city of Hama, reportedly killing 11 Iranian troops.
Cover image: This frame grab from video provided on Wednesday, May, 9, 2018 by Syria News, shows people standing in front of flames rising after an attack on an area known to have numerous Syrian army military bases, in Kisweh, south of Damascus, Syria on Tuesday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted depots and rocket launchers that likely belonged to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard in Kisweh, killing nine people. (Syria News, via AP)