By Erin Cunningham, Ruth Eglash, Washington Post–
Israeli officials did not immediately comment on the reports. The raid on the T4 airfield in Homs province comes as tensions rise over possible U.S. military action in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb late Saturday.
U.S. officials to say they were weighing options to strike Syrian government targets and the Syria’s state news agency initially blamed Monday’s strike on the United States. It backtracked following Pentagon denials.
“At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting airstrikes in Syria,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
President Trump had said Sunday that there would be a “big price to pay” for the attack that killed dozens of people in Douma outside Damascus, according to local medical personnel. Both Syria and Russia have denied the Syrian government’s involvement in that attack.
A Syrian military source and the Russian Defense Ministry said Israeli fighter jets carried out Monday’s strike from Lebanese airspace.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, most of the 14 killed were either Iranian forces or Iran-backed proxies supporting the Syrian government.
Iran is a staunch ally of the Syrian government, and has deployed forces and assets inside Syria, including a network of pro-government fighters it uses as shock troops in battles with Syrian rebels.
Israel has grown increasingly alarmed as Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, extend their military reach and influence in the region, including an expanded presence near Israel’s northern border.
In February, Israel confirmed that it had targeted the same airfield in Homs, after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace. Eight warplanes were used in that attack, Israel’s military said, including one F-16 fighter jet that was downed by Syrian antiaircraft fire.
“The timing of the strike isn’t coincidental,” said Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at Le Beck International, a Middle East-based geopolitical and security consultancy.