Fears are mounting that a full-blown war between Israel and Iran is just days away after 12 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Friday.
According to reports on Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal TV and the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network, the names of those killed were confirmed on a messaging app connected to the Iranian military.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: SANA, Syria’s state-run news agency said Israel had fired several missiles at a military base that Iran is building close to the country’s capital, Damascus, on Saturday.
The base is 31 miles from the Israeli border and an arms depot was reportedly destroyed in the strike.
The state-run agency also reported that two Israeli missiles had been shot down by Syrian air defences.
There has been no official comment from Israel, but in a video published on Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria.
He said: ‘Let me reiterate Israel’s policy: We will not allow a regime hell-bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state to acquire nuclear weapons.
‘We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.’
Last month, the BBC reported that Iran is trying to establish a permanent military base inside Syria, according to a Western intelligence source.
Satellite images commissioned by the BBC apparently showed the construction of two dozen low-rise buildings, as well as additional buildings between January and October this year at the site south of Damascus.
The Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s most powerful military force which also oversees an economic empire worth billions of dollars, has been fighting against Islamic State and in support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the central government in Baghdad for several years.
More than a thousand members of the Guards, including senior commanders, have been killed in Syria and Iraq.
The Revolutionary Guards initially kept quiet about their military role in both Syria and Iraq but have become more outspoken about it as casualties have mounted.
They frame their engagement as an existential struggle against the Sunni Muslim fighters of Islamic State, who see Shi‘ites, the majority of Iran’s population, as apostates.