Unofficial sources in Syria and Lebanon, cited by the Arab TV channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, reported Saturday, April 25, that the Israeli Air Force struck Hizballah and Syrian military targets in the Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border from Wednesday, April 22, to Friday night April 24. There is no official word on these reports from Israel or Syria.
In the Wednesday attack, one person was said to have been killed.
The picture taking shape from these reports shows the targets to have been the 155th, 65th and 92nd Brigades of the Syrian army and Hizballah, two Hizballah arms convoys and Syrian long-range missile bases or batteries.
debkafile’s military sources add that it is hardly credible that Israeli air raids spread over three days went unnoticed by the Syrian and Lebanese media. The Arab TV reports if confirmed may therefore be exaggerated in scope.
Friday, our own sources reported that Syrian and Hizballah forces under Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers were fighting to flush out the last rebel pockets on the strategic Qalamoun mountains, to clear the highway to Lebanon for unhindered military movements – most importantly, the weapons and personnel flowing regularly across the border between the two allies.
In past reports, debkafile disclosed that Hizballah had transferred the bulk of its personnel and a large store of missiles from northern Lebanon to a protected enclave in Qalamoun under its control. The Iranian-backed Lebanese militia calculated that this base would be safer from Israeli attack than in Lebanon. And, in the event of war, Israel would be obliged to extend its front to Syria. According to Western intelligence sources, long-range missiles are part of the store Hizballah relocated to the Syrian mountains, whence they can be aimed at Israel.
The putative Israeli air strikes this week would therefore have aimed at thwarting Hizballah’s scheme to set up another war base in the Syrian-Lebanese mountains area.
Another likely target would be Hizballah’s first air strip for drones established in the northern Lebanese Beqaa Valley south of Hermel.
Jane’s, a British publication specializing in military affairs, this week ran satellite images showing the airstrip to be 670 m long and 20 m wide, too short for most transport aircraft, excepting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards short take-off An-74T-200 transports, which carry arms for Hizballah – although landing with a load on this mountain strip would be considered dangerous. The runway was apparently built to accommodate drones, such as the Ababil-3 and Shahed-129 types which Iran has delivered to Hizballah.