NYT: Israel Targeted T-4 Base Over Iranian Actions

Syria’s T-4 air base near Homs. (Google Earth screenshot)

Israel attacked a military base in central Syria earlier this month in order to attack Iranian military personnel, according to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. Friedman quoted “a senior Israeli military source” as saying that the attack was prompted by the entry of an Iranian drone into Israeli air space in February – a drone that the IDF has revealed was carrying explosives, and was set to carry out a remote terror attack on Israeli population centers.

“This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” Friedman quoted the source as saying. “This opened a new period.” The attack on the T-4 base near Homs, the source told Friedman, “was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.”

There was no confirmation from the government as to the accuracy of Friedman’s claim. Israel has not commented publicly on the T-4 bombing, although several Israeli officials, including former IAF Commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu, have 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,” Ben Eliyahu said in an interview last week. “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.”

According to reports, two Israeli warplanes attacked the T-4 base outside the city of Homs last week and fired eight missiles. Three of the missiles hit targets in the base, while, according to Syrian claims, its forces destroyed the other five missiles before they exploded. Fourteen people were killed in the attack. Syrian media reports Monday said that four of those killed were Iranians, and two of the dead – one Iranian and one Syrian – were top members of the military establishments of both countries.

On Friday, the IDF said that the Iranian drone that was shot down in February was carrying explosives, and had been set to explode in Israel. In that incident, the IDF shot down the drone when it entered Israeli airspace 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 from the plane over Israeli territory, and were quickly taken to the hospital by rescue forces. Parts of the destroyed Israeli plane were found in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Iranian officials said Monday that Israel would “pay” for bombing the T-4 base. “Israel will suffer a blow for what it did,” Hadashot News quoted Iranian officials as saying. On Friday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that Israel had made a “grave mistake” in attacking the base. “Israel is not familiar with Iran,” Nasrallah said. “The Israelis need to know that they are in a direct conflict with Iran. Tehran is not weak.”