ANALYSIS: Despite Devastating Israeli Attack, Iran Continues Build-Up in Syria

Thursday, May 24, 2018 |  Yochanan Visser

Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin (pictured) on Tuesday revealed Israel is continuing to conduct airstrikes in Syria after the major confrontation with the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in the war-torn country on the night of May 10.

Norkin also presented new information about what exactly happened in the hours-long clash between the IAF and the Iranians that night, which an Israeli eyewitness who spoke with Israel Today on condition of anonymity described as being like a scene from “Star Wars.”

Norkin told a gathering of international air force chiefs in Herzliya that Israel has maintained its freedom of action over Syria, and stressed: “Israel will continue to work with determination to thwart the entrenchment of Iran in Syria and the arming of Hezbollah.”

His comments followed reports that an Iranian operations center at the headquarters of the Syrian Department of Electronic Warfare near Damascus had been attacked early Monday morning. The strike took place after a large Ilyushin IL-76T cargo plane arrived from Tehran at Damascus International Airport a few hours earlier.

Iran is using civilian airplanes and Syrian cargo planes to transfer sophisticated weaponry and missiles to Syria in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that prohibits such activity.

Sky News reported that the attack also destroyed the barracks of Iranian-backed Shiite militias at a state security school in the area.

On Tuesday, the Anadolu news agency in Turkey reported that Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias in southwest Syria were withdrawing from the area after “intensive reconnaissance flights over the region.”

The state-controlled Turkish news agency also reported that the Iranian-backed militias had set up camp at a number of locations in Daraa near the Jordanian border, and in Quneitra on the Syrian Golan Heights.

On Saturday, the IDF used artillery to prevent Hezbollah from establishing positions in the village of Tulul al-Humur south of Quneitra, according to Anadolu.

This all shows that Iran is not giving up its efforts to encroach on the Israeli border, and is preparing for more confrontations with the Jewish state.

Gen. Norkin, meanwhile, revealed more details on the first major confrontation between Israel and Iran on the night of May 10.

Iran had launched 32 missiles toward Israel that night, according to the IAF commander. Only four of them were intercepted by Israel’s various missile shields, while the rest fell within Syrian territory. Norkin also announced that the “Adir,” Israel’s modified version of the American F-35 stealth fighter, is conducting combat missions in Syria.

Norkin disclosed that over 100 anti-aircraft missiles were fired at the 28 Israeli F-15I and F-16I warplanes that took part in the broad aerial assault. None of those missiles hit their target, however.

In response, the IAF destroyed almost all the Syrian anti-aircraft batteries, including the advanced Russian-made Pantsir S-1 (SA-22) anti-missile system that was considered practically impregnable by the Russian military.

In addition to what Norkin told the conference in Herzliya, researchers at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Laboratorium (ACDFRL) concluded that the IAF strikes on 50 Iranian targets on May 10 also exposed serious flaws in Syria’s air defenses.

Russian media insisted that the Israeli hit on the Pantsir S-1 system had been possible because the battery had been turned off. But that didn’t convince the researchers at the ACDFRL, because Israeli warplanes had been conducting airstrikes for hours and the Pantsir S-1 was stationed close to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus.

They think the Israeli strikes exposed the Russian-made systems as inferior to US-made counterparts and to the tactics of the Israel Air Force.

For example, the Russian-made S-200 Wega-Es anti-aircraft missile system, which can fire up to five guided interceptors at a time, is currently causing IAF jets the most trouble. But, it was exposed as being ineffective against low-flying aircraft, a fact that was likely exploited by Israeli pilots.

That might explain why this reporter witnessed some IAF warplanes flying at very low altitude during the four hour-long raid, and why all Israeli jets returned safely to their bases.

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