January 20, 2019

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Maybe the attack on T-4 airbase in Syria had nothing (or little) to do with chemical weapons


From Times of Israel:

In a rare move, the Russian military on Monday accused Israel of carrying out a predawn missile strike on an air base in central Syria that reportedly killed 14 people, among them Iranian nationals.

Dictator Bashar Assad’s regime also said Israel was behind the airstrike.

Israeli military officials refused to comment on the allegations.

The United States and France officially denied carrying out the strike, which came shortly after both countries threatened to retaliate for a chemical weapons attack allegedly conducted by Assad in the Syrian town of Douma late Saturday.

The target of the reported airstrike was the Tiyas air base — also known as the T-4 air base — outside Palmyra in central Syria. Israel has previously carried out at least one explicitly acknowledged attack on the base, which it said was home to an Iranian drone program.

According to Russia, the strike was carried out shortly before 4 a.m. Monday by two Israeli F-15 fighter jets.

The Russian defense ministry said the Israeli aircraft launched eight missiles at the base from Lebanese airspace, five of which it said were intercepted.

Syrian television showed footage of the alleged Israeli missiles flying through Syrian airspace toward the base.

In a statement carried by the official Syrian news agency SANA, however, a military official source said eight of the missiles fired by the Israeli jets were downed by air-defense batteries, though some of them got through. “There are martyrs and wounded,” the source said.

While Syria has publicly accused Israel of conducting airstrikes against targets in its territory, Russia has mostly refrained from commenting on these attacks.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, at least 14 people were killed and more were wounded. Iranian nationals were listed among the casualties.

Moscow noted that no Russians were injured in the strike.

The initial assumption that the raid was in retaliation for the recent Syrian chemical weapon attack on its citizens, which President Trump threatened, seems to be wrong.  Israel had targeted the T-4 base before, and the IDF tweeted this in the aftermath (h/t David Gerstman):

Also, the Russian and Syrian accusation of Israel firing missiles from Lebanese airspace is consistent with how Israel usually carries out these types of strikes.

It seems likely that the US was in the loop on this attack, which is consistent with Israeli warnings about Iranian entrenchment in Syria that could threaten Israel.

I would guess that there is a lot of intelligence to be gathered as to which missiles evaded the Russian defense system and which were shot down.

It is notable that Iranians were killed at the airbase.

It is also notable that the 14 casualties are insignificant compared to the number of people killed in Syria yesterday alone – 130, including 86 civilians.

Of course, the media is focusing on Gaza and not on Syria. 

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