An Israeli airstrike on the western Syrian city of Hama on Sunday killed two dozen Iranian soldiers and targeted arms recently delivered from Iran, said three U.S. officials, and is the latest sign that Israel and Iran are moving closer to open warfare.
“On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now,” said one senior U.S. official.
Three U.S. officials say Israeli F-15s hit Hama after Iran delivered weapons to a base that houses Iran’s 47th Brigade, including surface-to-air missiles. In addition to killing two dozen troops, including officers, the strike wounded three dozen others.
Israel is increasingly wary of Iran’s influence in neighboring Syria, the three U.S. officials say. While Russia runs the air war for the Assad regime in Syria, Iran is now running the ground war, the officials said, with Iranian military present at every major Russian and Syrian regime base in the country.
In the past two weeks Iran has increased military cargo flights to Syria, stocked with additional weapons and supplies like small arms, ammunition and surface-to-air missiles that two U.S. officials believe are meant both to shore up Iranian ground forces and to strike at Israel. For years the U.S. has tracked arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah fighters in Syria supporting the Assad regime, but recently Iran has been supplying Hezbollah with more material and logistical support.
The three U.S. officials said Israel now seems to be preparing for military action and is seeking U.S. help and support. [Continue reading…]