Iran exploited relief flights to covertly supply its ally Syria with weapons and military equipment following a devastating earthquake in February, according to intelligence sources.
After a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck neighbouring Turkey on Feb 7 causing widespread destruction including 6,000 deaths in Syria, Iran dispatched hundreds of aid flights to Syria’s Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia airports.
Now for the first time intelligence sources have revealed to Reuters that among the relief supplies Iran also sent advanced communications equipment and radar batteries and spare parts required for a planned upgrade of Syria’s air defence system. The aim was to strengthen Iran’s defences against Israel in Syria and to strengthen Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.
But Israel quickly became aware of the fresh influx of weapons into Syria and mounted an aggressive campaign to stop the shipments.
Syrian state media previously reported that Israel launched air strikes against Aleppo airport twice in March, including one attack on March 7 that damaged its runway and temporarily closed the facility, diverting flights to Damascus and Latakia.
Israel’s intelligence on the arriving hardware was so detailed that Israeli strikes were able to target specific trucks within long convoys, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, an Israeli military insider with knowledge of the operation, told Reuters.
When asked if Iran had used humanitarian relief planes after the earthquakes to move military equipment to Syria to enhance its network there and help Mr Assad, Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York said: “That’s not true.”
Syria’s government did not respond to a request for comment.
An Israeli defence official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters: “Under the guise of shipments of earthquake aid to Syria, Israel has seen significant movements of military equipment from Iran, mainly transported in parts.”
Israel is increasing its efforts to counter Iran’s influence in Syria, one unnamed Syrian officer told Reuters.
“Why now? Simply because they have information that something is being developed quickly. They must stop it and hit it to slow it. The quake created the right conditions. The chaos that ensued allowed Iranian jets to land with ease,” he said.
‘Iranian militias have restocked ammunition’
Tehran’s military support to Damascus has been vital to the Assad regime surviving an ongoing 12-year civil war. Alarmed at the prospect of its arch foe gaining a toehold on Israel’s northern border, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria.
Recent Israeli strikes have targeted weapons depots in the Jabal Manea Kiswa mountain range south of Damascus where Iranian troops and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hizbollah have built what is probably their most fortified military site in Syria, a regional security source and two Western intelligence sources told Reuters.
A radar station used for drones was also hit on April 3, the regional source added, corroborating what two Western intelligence sources had told Reuters.
“We believe that Iranian militias have transferred huge quantities of ammunition – they have restocked quantities lost in previous Israeli drone strikes,” a Western intelligence source told Reuters, referring to Iranian flights since the Feb 6 earthquake.
Original News : https://news.yahoo.com/iran-used-earthquake-relief-flights-115602128.html
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