Iran’s air force commander said that Iran is ready to destroy Israel, following Israeli strikes on military targets in Syria on Monday that reportedly killed dozens of Iranian servicemen.
“Our current and future generations [in the air force] are impatient and fully ready to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth,” the Asr-Iran website cited Brigadier-General Aziz Nasirzadeh as saying on January 21.
“Our future generations are learning required know-how for the promised day to destroy Israel,” he said, adding that Iran’s enemies do not dare to attack Iran.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, at least 21 people were killed by the Israeli strikes. Israel maintains that it was on the defensive as rockets were launched into a heavily crowded tourist area in Israel.
“They are six members of the regime forces and the Syrian gunmen loyal to it, and 15 non-Syrian nationality members including at least 12 of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” the report stated.
Russia’s defense ministry announced in a statement that Syrian air defenses had destroyed over 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs when repelling an Israeli strike. According to a report by Sputnik, the Israeli air raid partially damaged infrastructure of the Damascus international airport.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently said in a statement, "We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us," the Israeli website Ynetnews reported. Iran has been active in Syria, along with Russia, for years, following an uprising that broke out in the spring of 2011 and eventually turned into a civil war.
“The wave of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to act against Iran in Syria," Netanyahu said during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem last week, referring to Israel’s strike on Iranian arms depots near Damascus airport.
Israeli warplanes have recently used Lebanon's airspace to strike deep inside Syria, including attacking a warehouse near Damascus International Airport earlier this month, according to the Israel Hayom online newsletter. Israel has repeatedly accused Iran of having a military presence in Syria and trying to build a base there. Tehran has strongly refuted such claims.
The spokesman for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bahram Ghassemi, said on January 14, “We do not have a military base in Syria. We have a presence in Syria at the request of the Syrian government for advisory work and combatting terrorism,” Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
Israel is suspected of having carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against Iranian targets and Iran-backed proxies, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah. But Netanyahu’s recent comments come as a surprise, since Israel has mostly refrained from publicly confirming its military operations inside Syria in order to avoid a larger involvement in the war there. His statements amount to an open pledge to stop Iran from establishing any time of comfortable presence in a country that borders Israel.
While Iran is an existential threat to Israel, Israel and Syria are neighbors but not friends. A peace treaty between the two countries has never been signed after heavy fighting in the 1960s, and they technically remain in a state of war. The two have repeatedly exchanged tit-for-tat attacks in border territories.
Russia and Iran have given Syria’s embattled President Bashar Al Assad military and diplomatic support over the past eight years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced during that period.