By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, April 2 (Reuters) – Israel targeted outposts in Syria’s Homs province in a raid early on Sunday, the Syrian defence ministry said, while Western intelligence sources said the strikes hit a series of air bases in the central region of the country where Iranian personnel are based.
The Israeli military declined to comment on the report of the latest strike in Syria, the third since Thursday and only a day after another attack on Friday that killed an officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Guards said.
Israel launched “an aerial aggression from the direction of northwest Beirut targeting some outposts in Homs city and its countryside at 00:35 a.m.”, the Syrian defence ministry said in a statement on state media.
Two Western intelligence sources who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said the rocket strikes targeted the T4 air base located west of the ancient city of Palmyra, and al Dabaa airport near al Qusayr city near the Lebanese border, an area with members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Iranian military personnel alongside fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah are stationed at both airports and there is a strong presence of pro-Iranian militias in that area of Homs province, the sources said.
Reuters is unable to independently verify these accounts.
Syria denies Western and Israeli allegations that Iran, whose top military officials frequently visit Syria, has an extensive military presence in the country.
A Syrian military source said on state media that the strikes caused some material damage with five military personnel injured.
Israel has for years carried out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict that began in 2011 following a brutal crackdown of peaceful demonstrators.
Israel has intensified strikes in the last year on Syrian airports and air bases to disrupt what it says is Iran’s use of aerial supply lines to deliver arms to militias.
Western intelligence sources have said Iran is increasingly using several civilian airports to deliver more arms, taking advantage of heavy air traffic as cargo planes offload relief aid following February’s deadly earthquake.
Iran declined to comment on the Western and Israeli accusations.