Iran vowed to retaliate for the recent attack on a military base in Syria, blaming Israel for the strike. Speaking in Damascus at a two-day conference on Jerusalem Tuesday, a senior advisor to Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, told Iran' state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that Israel's "crimes will not remain unanswered."
"The Israeli regime's aggression against Syria is a breach of this country's national sovereignty and territorial integrity and runs counter to all international regulations and principles," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Monday, according to Press TV.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the strike, but Russia claims Israel Was responsible for carrying out the attack, which targeted the T-4 airbase near Homs. Syria, Iran, and Lebanon have also blamed Israel for the attack, which Russia said was initiated by F-15 fighter jets firing missiles from Lebanese airspace.
The strike resulted in the killing of "some Iranian military advisers," according to IRNA. The semi-official FARS news agency said 4 Iranians had been killed.
"The Zionist regime is [looking for] increased tensions in the region and I think that all involved sides should be extremely vigilant towards this issue," said Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi to Russia Today on Tuesday, according to FARS.
Blaming the US for supporting Israel, Araqchi added, "The US and Israel have entered the scene at different stages to boost the terrorists' morale in Syria and the recent attacks by the Zionists against Syria which was a repetition of similar assaults in the past are within the same framework."
Though Iran and Israel often exchange accusations, Israel is taking these new threats seriously. The government will discuss the situation at a security cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
"I want to say one thing with absolute certainty. We will not allow the Iranians to base themselves in Syria, no matter what the price," said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday. "We have no other choice. To agree to the Iranians basing themselves in Syria is like agreeing to Iran putting a noose around our neck." Liberman did not comment on the strike in Syria.
Israel has repeatedly expressed its red lines when it comes to Syria: it says it will not allow the transfer of high-powered weapons to Hezbollah, an Iranian-proxy based in Lebanon; it will not allow any breach of Israeli sovereignty; and, as apparently in the most recent strike, it will work to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Syria.
"T-4, which is the base we're talking about, is no longer just a Syrian base, it is a Syrian-Iranian base," leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, said Speaking to Israeli Army Radio on Monday.
In February, Israeli fighter jets hit the same facility, which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says was the command and control center for an Iranian drone that penetrated Israeli airspace, before being shot down.
Before this year, Iran and Israel had only had one other direct confrontation in Syria, which occurred in January 2015. Then, an airstrike attributed to Israel in Quneitra in southern Syria killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, Gen. Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, along with six others. Israel has never commented on the strike. In response, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli vehicles operating near the Lebanese border, killing two Israeli soldiers.
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