by Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Intensifying strikes followed intelligence suggesting Iran's ultimate goal was to "import" 100,000 fighters to the region, form a Hezbollah-like organization in Syria
A target in Syria as seen on an Israeli fighter jet's radar
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
The Israeli military has carried out more than 200 strikes against Iranian targets in Syria over the past two years, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday in a rare briefing about the IDF's efforts to undermine the Islamic republic's grip on the war-torn country.
Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not tolerate Iran's attempts to entrench
ed itself militarily in Syria,
especially given the strong presence Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist
group Hezbollah maintains in Lebanon, where it has become a
substantial political and military force.
According to regional sources, Israel began carrying out military strikes in Syria in 2013, targeting Hezbollah-bound weapons shipments from Iran.
A top Israeli defense official noted Tuesday that the Israeli strikes intensified over the past two years, as it became clear that Iran was developing assets on the ground in Syria.
He acknowledged that since 2017, the Israeli Air Force has targeted 202 Iranian and Hezbollah assets in Syria, using some 800 bombs and missiles to do so.
The decision to intensify such raids followed intelligence suggesting that Iran sought to "import" over 100,000 fighters into Syria and set up a series of air, naval and ground bases equipped with advanced weapons and intelligence systems.
Iran's ultimate goal was to form a Hezbollah-like organization in Syria, the official explained.
Another IDF official touched on Hezbollah's current situation, noting that the Shiite terrorist group, which has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's army in the seven-year civil war, "has lost over 2,000 men and it plagued by financial hardship and reduced ranks, all while [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah is hiding in a bunker."
According to IDF intelligence, Hezbollah, which is believed to have over 100,000 missiles and rockets in its arsenal, is currently focused on improving its array of precision missiles, hoping to get them accurate to within less than 50 meters (160 feet).
The group has so far failed to do so over the IDF's successful counterterrorism operations, the official noted.
Several military officials who spoke during Tuesday's briefing stressed that the IDF "is ready for war, regardless of the scenarios it presents."
Speaking at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya's 18th World Summit on Counterterrorism, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz commented on the IDF's revelation, urging the audience to "understand the significance of this matter in terms of preserving the red line, preventing the things that Iran has done, is doing and is trying to do against Israel from Syria."
Iran, Israel's archfoe, advocates for the Jewish state's destruction and alongside Hezbollah it also support the Gaza Strip-based terrorist group Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman signaled that the country could also attack suspected Iranian military targets in Iraq, where Tehran has reportedly deployed ballistic missiles that threaten Israel.
A senior Israeli military officer said that Israel believed Iran was using Iraqi territory as a conduit for missile transfers to Syria.
Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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