Israeli defense chief says military has more than doubled strikes on Iranian targets in Syria

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister Monday said that Israel’s new government has greatly increased the number of strikes on Iranian targets since taking office late last year.

Yoav Gallant did not provide an exact number of airstrikes. But the address, delivered at a security conference, marked rare public comments on Israeli military activity in Syria.

“Since I took office, the number of Israeli strikes against the Iranians in Syria have doubled,” Gallant said.

“As part of this campaign, we are working methodically to strike the Iranian intelligence capabilities in Syria,” he said. “These strikes inflict significant damage to the attempts by the Revolutionary Guard to establish a foothold a few kilometers from the Israeli border.”

Gallant also accused Iran of converting civilian ships into military vessels armed with weapons such as drones, missiles and intelligence-gathering capabilities. He said Iran hopes to station these ships at long distances from Iran.

“Iran aims to expand its reach to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and even the shores of the Mediterranean,” he said. “This is a structured plan designed to threaten trade and flight routes — both military and civilian — and to create a permanent threat in the maritime arena.”

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, citing its calls for Israel’s destruction and its support for anti-Israel militant groups across the region. It also accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb — a charge Iran denies.

Israeli officials have acknowledged carrying out hundreds of strikes on Iranian targets in neighboring Syria — where Iran has sent advisers and forces to assist President Bashar Assad in a 12-year civil war. But officials have given few details over the years and almost never comment on specific operations.

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