DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – The Syrian Defense Ministry said Thursday that one of its soldiers was killed and three others wounded in a night-time Israeli airstrike on a telecommunications tower in central Homs province.
A military official said the strike shortly before midnight in the Palmyra area hit the tower and some poles surrounding it. The official did not further identify the targets. Syrian air defenses were activated to respond to incoming missiles, which the Defense Ministry said came from the Tanf region in southeastern Syria.
In a rare acknowledgment that their bases had been struck, Iranian-backed groups in Syria vowed retaliation. The groups said they would have “a harsh response” to Israeli strikes in Palmyra.
The groups also blamed the United States for the strikes, which came from Tanf, where the United States has a small outpost in the area that straddles the Baghdad-Damascus highway.
The groups said the strikes hit service and youth centers, causing a number of casualties, between dead and injured. The groups did not provide details.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war observer, said the strikes hit an air base known as T4, adding that Iranian-backed militiamen there based were targeted.
Israel has staged hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in government-controlled Syria over the years, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
Recently, there has been an escalation of such strikes, the last of which took place in the same area on Friday, injuring six soldiers.
Israel views the Iranian presence on its northern border as a red line and has repeatedly struck what it has described as Iran-linked installations and weapons convoys intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.