Israel Conducts Strikes Against Iranian Targets In Syria

Jan 21, 2019
Originally published on January 21, 2019 7:10 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's been a military confrontation between two longtime sworn enemies, Israel and Iran. According to Israel, Iranian forces in Syria fired a missile. Israel intercepted it, and Israel then struck Iranian targets in Syria. At least 11 were reported killed, including four Syrian troops. NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us from Jerusalem to find out more about what happened. Good morning, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: What can you tell us? What other details do you have?

ESTRIN: Well, all this started on Sunday. Syria said it struck down Israeli missiles targeting a site near the Damascus Airport. Now, Israel's not commenting on that. But then Sunday afternoon, Israel said the Quds force, which is an elite Iranian military force active in Syria, fired a medium-range, surface-to-surface missile toward the Golan Heights, which Israel controls. Israel captured the Golan from Syria about 50 years ago. And there's an Israeli ski site there, and listen to this clip from an Israeli snowboarder. He managed to capture on film Israel intercepting the Iranian missile mid-air.

(SOUNDBITE OF MISSILE SOARING)

ESTRIN: So after that, Iranian missile was shot down. Overnight, Israel said its warplanes struck Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian aerial defenses that had shot at the Israeli planes.

MARTIN: I can't get over that scene of a snowboarder (laughter) watching all this transpire in the sky...

ESTRIN: Right.

MARTIN: ...Above him. How - I mean, this is rare - right? - this kind of military engagement between Israel and Iran.

ESTRIN: Well, it is rare for Iran to fire a missile toward an Israeli target, though it's not the first time Israel says Iranian forces in Syria have targeted Israel. There was - something happened in May where Israel said Iran fired missiles toward Israeli targets. But what we're seeing here, Rachel, is Israel's campaign against Iran coming out of the shadows. It's only been in the last few weeks that Israel has revealed that it has carried out thousands of attacks on Iran, Iranian proxies in Syria and Lebanon in recent years. The big picture here is that Israel is trying to stop Iran from building up its military presence in Syria, which Israel considers to be a direct threat on its border. And what we have seen today is what military officials in Israel call, quote, unquote, "the war between the wars." And there is concern that this kind of thing could escalate into a full-fledged war between Iran and its proxies against Israel.

MARTIN: Wow. So that's what I was going to ask - if this is a one-off, or if this could get worse? And you're saying it could.

ESTRIN: Well, for now, today things are quiet. No more missile attacks, but that Israeli ski site remains closed today. And Israel says it's on alert.

MARTIN: NPR international correspondent Daniel Estrin joining us from Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks. We appreciate it.

ESTRIN: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.