People gather for the funeral ceremony of Panah Taghizadeh and Mohammad-Ali Ataie, members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) who were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Syria, held in Tehran, Iran, December 4, 2023.

IRGC Tries To Minimize Significance Of Israeli Attacks In Syria

Wednesday, 12/06/2023
Mardo Soghom

Chief Editor of Iran International English website

Israel is not systematically targeting Iranian forces in Syria, Fars news website affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard stated on Tuesday, downplaying repeated air strikes.

Iran caught between Israel’s military operation in Gaza that has squeezed Tehran’s ally Hamas and Israeli air strikes in Syria, appears to be trying to defend its reputation and military credibility. Fars wrote that foreign media claim “Israel has been serially attacking Iranian positions in Syria. However, these assertions are far from reality. Israel has no intention or audacity to launch a deliberate attack on Iranian forces." 

Fars’ claim contradicts the history of Israeli attacks on Iran-related targets in Syria that have been routinely taking place since early 2017. Hundreds of attacks have been carried out by Israel targeting weapons depots, forward positions, and Syrian airports that Iran uses to transport its weapons into the country. At least twenty such attacks took place in 12 months from April 2022 to April 2023. According to Israeli sources 100 attacks took place before 2017, and by the end of 2018, the number had already climbed to 200.

Iran became involved in the Syria civil war in 2011 and started to send military personnel to the country. It also deployed Afghan, Iraqi and other militias to fight on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but its main fighting force was considered to be the Lebanese Hezbollah. However, Iran also began shipping weapons solely for Hezbollah to store in Lebanon for possible use against Israel.

The air attacks often targeted these shipments, whether in warehouses in Syria or en route to Lebanon.

However, Fars dismisses hundreds of Israeli attacks and claims that only a few air strikes took place and Iran so far has had a handful of casualties. Moreover, the IRGC mouthpiece says that these attacks and casualties were errors by Israel, who did not intend to hit Iranian targets.

A funeral service for several Iranian forces killed in Syria, Tehran (December 2023)

"The attacks have mostly occurred either due to the lack of information on the part of the Zionists about the presence of Iranian forces, or are conveyed through intermediaries, such as the Russians, and Iranian forces are martyred solely due to some miscoordination," Fars claimed. 

The latest Israeli attack took place last week, and Iran admitted that two of its high-ranking officers were killed in Syria, vowing retaliation.

While supporting Hamas financially and militarily, Tehran has decided not to become directly involved in the Gaza war to defend its ally, Hamas. This is apparently seen by the IRGC as a potential domestic and regional embarrassment, after decades of threats that it can wipe Israel off the map with its ballistic missiles.

Since the war started on October 7, IRGC generals have been frequently making claims of fielding new weapons systems, and issuing warnings against any power that would dare to challenge them. Meanwhile, the United States sent a naval strike group led by the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower into the Persian Gulf last week with the United Kingdom also dispatching an additional warship.

One way in which IRGC has tried to compensate for its lack of direct action to defend Hamas has been frequent attacks by Iranian proxies against US bases in Iraq and Syria as well as escalating attacks on vessels in the Red Sea by Yemeni Houthi forces. But Tehran has tried to disavow any role in these attacks, insisting that “resistance” forces are acting on their own in defense of Hamas.

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