Syria in turn accused the United States, then Israel, of attacking an air base in Homs early Monday, with both countries denying involvement in the attack.
The attack killed 14 people, many of them Iranian agents, according to media reports. But in an interview Monday, former Israel Air Force Commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu said that Israel could very well have been involved in the attack. “Israel and the U.S. are the only two countries that could have carried this out, and Israel has operated in this area before. I myself commanded some missions in this area. If the Americans had conducted this attack, there would be no reason for them to deny it.”
Syrian state news agency SANA earlier Monday quoted Russian sources as saying that Israel was behind the attack. “The Israeli aggression on the T4 airfield was carried out with F-15 planes,” SANA said, citing a military source. Earlier, the Syrians had accused the U.S. of the attack, but Washington denied that claim.
Speaking to 103 Radio, Ben Eliyahu said that if the attack was in retaliation for the weekend assault on civilians with gas weapons, “the United States would have had a hard time acting so quickly, unless it had a ship or planes in or over the Mediterranean. Thus I believe it was Israel that carried out the attack.” When asked by interviewers what Israel’s interest in such an attack was, Ben Eliyahu said that it was part of the ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a base in Syria.
According to Ben Eliyahu the base that was hit was the source of the drone that entered Israeli airspace in February. Two Israeli pilots were injured when an Iranian drone was detected over Israeli airspace in the Golan Heights. The IDF shot down the drone, and dispatched a battery of planes to attack the Tadmor air base in Syria, where the drone was dispatched from, and several other targets in Syria. The Israeli planes were met with a barrage of missiles fired by Syria, one of which hit an F-16 jet that had a crew of two. The two pilots ejected themselves from the plane over Israeli territory, and were taken to a nearby hospital.
Ben Eliezer added that the chemical attack on Syrian civilians last weekend may have been a motivating factor as well. “Usually when there is an attack on one of these bases you don’t hear about casualties, but this time they announced them. I have no doubt that the chemical attack was a factor in this attack as well,” he added.