By Yoav Limor, Yoni Hersch, Daniel Siryoti and Eli Leo, Israel Hayom—
Iran is “playing with fire” in its efforts to entrench itself in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, a senior Israeli defense official warned Wednesday.
The statement followed a Fox News report that included satellite images that prove Iran is building another permanent military base in Syria.
The images, taken by Israeli firm ImageSat International, clearly show what is believed to be a new Iranian base in Jabal ash Sharqi, a mountainous area eight miles northwest of Damascus. The structures include two hangars that Western intelligence sources said are likely to store medium- and long-range missiles capable of hitting all of Israel.
The base is reportedly operated by the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite division responsible for overseas operations.
“Iran is playing with fire and we will do everything within our power to stop it,” the Israeli official said.
Speaking with Israel Radio, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also responded to the report, saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun, and there is no need to treat every media report as absolute. We are monitoring these events closely.”
GOC Army Headquarters Maj. Gen. Yaakov Barak spoke with reporters Wednesday and said, “The chances of war in 2018 have grown but that doesn’t mean that we, or the other players in the region, have an interest in going to war.”
Last week, The New York Times published a comprehensive report that identified three main Iranian bases that “oversee operations in large parts of Syria,” one near Aleppo in the north and two south of Damascus. It also said there were seven smaller tactical bases near active front lines where Iran and its proxies have a presence.
On Tuesday, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, told the House Committee on Armed Services that Iran has increased the number of its bases in Syria and has improved the quality of ballistic missiles it has there.
He said that since the 2015 nuclear deal came into effect, Iran has substantially increased the funding and logistical support it gives its proxies in the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Also on Tuesday, a new report by the U.N. found that between 2012 and 2017, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea provided Syria with rocket launchers, surface-to-air missiles, conventional and nonconventional arms and dual-use goods.