An Israeli defense official confirmed that it was the Israeli Air Force that struck the T4 air base in Homs, Syria, last week, the New York Times reported Monday.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying, “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets, both facilities and people.”
Israel has refrained from making any official statement on the strike, which is believed to have dealt a serious blow to Iran’s drone deployment in Syria.
Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, immediately accused Israel of carrying out the raid, in which seven Iranian Quds Force members were killed, including the commander of the drone unit, Col. Mehdi Dehghan.
Iran was outraged by the strike and, unlike its traditional downplaying of previous indirect incidents, openly acknowledged its losses and vowed to take revenge.
“The crimes will not remain unanswered,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said during a visit to Syria.
The T4 air base, long used by Iranian forces in Syria, is believed to have been the point from where an Iranian drone incursion into Israelwas launched on Feb. 10.
“This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel directly, not by proxy. This opened a new period,” the Israeli military official was quoted as saying.
The drone was downed by the Israeli Air Force. Israel retaliated by destroying the drone’s control post and two other Iranian assets in Syria, but the IAF lost an F-16 fighter jet in the process and the Middle East came dangerously close to a regional conflagration.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that the Iranian drone had been weaponized and was sent to attack Israel.
Friedman wrote that the fact that the drone was carrying explosives was alarming as it suggests that the Quds Force, widely considered to be Iran’s black-ops arm, may have been trying to launch an actual military strike on Israel from Syrian soil.
Given the drone incursion and Iran’s threats to destroy Israel, senior Israeli defense officials “have let it be known that if the Iranians were to strike back at Israeli targets, Israel may use the opportunity to make a massive counterstrike on Iran’s entire military infrastructure in Syria,” he wrote.