Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that Israel will pursue operations in Syria until Iran leaves, hours after strikes on Iranian-backed militias and their allies killed 14 fighters.
“Iran has nothing to do in Syria… (and) we won’t stop before they leave Syria,” Bennett said in a television interview, stopping short of claiming Israeli responsibility for the overnight strikes.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the strikes in the desert near the eastern Syrian town of Mayadin.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the strikes came minutes after Syrian air defenses intercepted Israeli air raids over the north of the country.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011, targeting government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria but says Iran’s presence in support of President Bashar al-Assad is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.
Speaking to the state-owned Kan 11 television news channel, Bennett said Iran was “trying to establish itself on the border with Israel to threaten Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.”
His allegation is not new and has often been made by Israeli officials.
“They have to leave Syria,” Bennett said.
“They have enough problems at home with the coronavirus (and) the collapsing economy,” he said about Iran.
Bennett said Iran “used to be an asset for the Syrians… but now it’s a burden.”
On Friday, the Observatory said Israeli strikes hit a missile depot belonging to Iran-backed Hezbollah in central Syria.
And last week, Israel was accused of hitting pro-regime positions in Syria at least three times.