Netanyahu confirms Israel attacked Iranian targets in Syria 'hundreds of times'

PM's comments come as IDF's outgoing chief of staff reveals Israel has dropped thousands of bombs in 2018 alone


Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that Israel attacked Iranian arms warehouses at Damascus Airport in Syria over the weekend "hundreds of times".

Speaking at Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, the Israeli Prime Minister was unusually candid about the weekend strikes on what he said were "Iranian and Hezbollah targets" in Syria.

Mr Netanyahu's remarks came after outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot also said in a separate newspaper interview that Israel had dropped 2,000 bombs on targets in Syria in 2018 alone, in what has been described as an "invisible war" in the region.

The Israeli PM said that the IDF has “succeeded impressively in stopping Iran's military buildup in Syria, and in this context the IDF has attacked hundreds of times Iranian and Hezbollah targets.”

He added: "Only in the last 36 hours did the air force strike targets in Syria and we have proven that we will not stop the settlement of Iran in Syria." 

Mr Netanyahu also praised Lt.-Gen Eisenkot in his farewell meeting with the cabinet.

He also said they worked together in dismantling Hezbollah's tunnel threat from Lebanon, in uncovering Hamas tunnels on the Gaza border, and in thwarting hundreds of attacks in the West Bank and in “many other actions, both overt and covert”.

The departing Chief of Staff spoke pubicly for the first time about about the war being fought against Iran in Syria in an interview with the Sunday Times.

He said Israel had begun attacking "the infrastructure the Iranians were building in Syria" in January 2017.

Lt-Gen Eisenkot, 58, who is retiring this week as Israel’s military commander after 40 years as a soldier, added: “We carried out thousands of attacks without taking responsibility and without asking for credit."

In 2018 alone, Israel had dropped 2,000 bombs on Iranian targets in Syria, he said.

In the revealing interview, the Israeli war hero said Israeli intelligence identified the Iranian intention to build up a force of around 100,000 Shi'ite fighters in Syria by the end of 2018.

Despite mounting waves of attacks in the region, Israel, he said, was cautious about taking responsibility for strikes - and deliberately attempted to attack strategic targets rather than kill Iranian soldiers.

Lt-Gen Eisenkot added he believed the Syrian regime had a shared interest in reigning in the Iranian operation in the region.

“Bashar al-Assad [the Syrian president] needed them when he had his back against the wall and now he doesn’t need them," he said.

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