By Abdel Raouf Arnaout
JERUSALEM (AA) - Israel was behind last week’s attack on a Syrian airbase that reportedly left a number of Iranian military personnel dead, the New York Times quoted an Israeli military source as saying Monday.
The source, who spoke to the newspaper anonymously, said it was the first time for Israel to attack Iranian targets in Syria, describing the move as the start of a “new phase”.
Following the April 9 attack, Syria’s SANA news agency had reported that Israeli F-15s had fired several missiles -- from Lebanese airspace -- at Syria’s T4 military airbase (also known as the Tiyas airbase).
International media later reported that at least 14 people -- including a number of Iranian military personnel -- had lost their lives in the raid.
Iran's Fars News Agency published photographs and names of three Revolutionary Guards personnel who it alleged had been killed in the strikes.
Israel, for its part, declined to confirm or deny its involvement in the strike.
Since the Syria conflict began in 2011, Israel has carried out several strikes inside Syrian territory, only some of which it has claimed responsibility for.
The official’s admissions to the New York Times represented the first time for an Israeli source to admit that Israel warplanes had struck an Iranian position in Syria.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.
Shortly after the conflict began, Iran began sending troops to support the Assad regime. In 2015, Russia, too, entered the conflict on the side of the regime.
According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict -- now in its eighth year -- while millions more have been displaced.