A recent missile strike in Syria, the first of its kind in over a month, comes amid reports that Israel has succeeded in neutralizing 90% of Iran’s efforts to establish a military presence in the country.
Syria attributed a missile attack on Friday night to the Israeli military. The strike, the first of its kind in over a month, hit a military target near the Damascus airport. Israel does not comment on military activities outside of its borders but has admitted to carrying out at least two hundred such strikes in 2017 to prevent Iran from gaining a military presence in Syria.
On Saturday, a report in Hebrew-language Walla News cited “senior defense officials” as claiming that the IDF has destroyed 90% of the ability of Iran to produce weapons in Syria as well as thwarting their efforts to transfer weapons to Hezbollah via land, sea, or air. The report also claimed that the IDF has prevented Iran from establishing military bases in Syria.
This included the destruction of several facilities belonging to the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), better known by its French acronym CERS. Though CERS is defined by the Syrian government as a center for scientific research, in practice foreign intelligence sources believe that it is used for the development and production of rockets, missiles of various types, and chemical and biological weapons. Israel has successfully attacked CERS facilities on three separate occasions but CERS facilities have also been targeted by the US.
The report attributed Iran’s plans in Syria to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2020. Soleimani became head of Iran’s Quds Force in 1998 and was responsible for carrying out operations beyond Iran’s borders.
As a result, it is believed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has curtailed Iranian efforts to establish military bases in his country as it harms his efforts to stabilize his government.
Also, security officials told Walla that they believe Assad is very concerned about Iran’s growing alliance with Russia in its war in Ukraine. Assad is concerned that maintaining military ties with Iran under these circumstances will sever necessary ties with European countries.
If the report is accurate, it represents a major achievement for Israel’s security. Estimates of the number of Iranian personnel in Syria range from hundreds to tens of thousands. Iranian troops and allied militias on the ground are supported by ballistic missile and air forces, including armed drones utilizing smart munitions.
Though much of this military support is to bolster the Assad regime in its ongoing civil war, Iran’s military presence in Syria is also to provide a crucial thoroughfare to Hezbollah in Lebanon.