Israel, the US, and other unknown parties struck at least 84 sites in Syria in 2021. A new report by IranWire’s Arabic team provides details of the targeted sites and dates of the attacks, in addition to the parties that carried them out. It relies on sources within the Syrian army and Iranian groups, statements by the Syrian regime, and what was published by local and international news outlets.
Most of the attacks in 2021 targeted weapons shipments, weapons depots, military airports, warehouses, and drug factories. Israel also struck at least three sites used as centers for developing chemical weapons.
Lebanese Hezbollah was targeted by 20 Israeli raids on various sites, some of which belong to the Syrian army, where fighters and administrative and military centers affiliated with the party are located.
The Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades were struck by two raids carried out by the US coalition forces, and eight raids by an unknown aircraft that targeted a convoy of the Brigades leaders in the Syrian Al-Mayadin district. The raids, announced by the coalition, also targeted three sites belonging to the Master of Martyrs Battalions (Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada), an Iraqi militia linked to Iran.
Other Iranian militias were struck in more than 50 separate attacks. In some cases the IranWire Arabic team was unable to determine the targeted group because of the stated presence of more than one group in the same location.
Israel and the US claimed responsibility for two raids each. No party claimed responsibility for the remaining 80.
The Syrian regime reported 70 of these raids to the public, and in all cases attributed to them to Israel. Click here to view a map showing the sites and dates of the strikes in addition to the parties that were said to have carried them out.
Bombing Chemical Weapons Development Centers
On June 8, 2021, the Israeli warplanes targeted Hezbollah sites in the countryside of Homs, which resulted in the killing of 30 members, according to a Syrian source working with the party and who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Syrian state media reported at the time that the raids were an Israeli air strike near the Syrian capital, Damascus, and in the central province of Homs, which led to the response of the Syrian air defenses. The official media did not specify what the attacks targeted, although explosions were heard in Damascus.
The Washington Post reported in its December 13, 2021 issue, citing four current and former US officials and Western intelligence officials who had access to sensitive intelligence information, that the June 2021 attack targeted three chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
Quoting those officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the newspaper said Israeli officials ordered the raid, and a similar one a year ago, based on intelligence that the Syrian regime was obtaining chemicals and other supplies needed to rebuild its weapons production capacity. The targeted site featured research centers and weapons depots containing missiles that were being developed and modified, according to military sources from the Syrian regime who spoke to IranWire.
This facility is under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and the development operations inside these centers are supervised by Iranian military experts and commanders from the Revolutionary Guards, sources close to the militias told IranWire earlier this year. According to those sources, the center was used to produce the Syrian version of the Iranian Fateh-110 missile, which has an estimated range of 200 kilometers.
The center also contributes to the manufacture of chemical weapons, long-range missiles, and artillery shells. The military source added that there are three sites where chemical weapons are manufactured in Syria, namely Masyaf in Hama Governorate, and Barzeh and Jamraya in the vicinity of Damascus.
Syrian Media’s Identical Narrative After Each Bombing
The Syrian regime usually reserves the right to retaliate. Russia has expressed on more than one occasion its rejection of the illegal attacks by Israel on Syria, but it considered that using force as a response to these operations would be unconstructive.
Official, state-controlled Syrian media outlets have used an almost identical narrative to report these strikes: “Syrian air defenses responded to an Israeli aggression”, followed by reference to the timing and to the place which the Israeli aircraft or missiles came from, without referring to the targeted sites or losses, and always citing an unnamed military source.
On November 3, 2021, the Syrian regime’s official news agency, SANA, published a news item showing how targets in the countryside of Damascus were hit by an Israeli strike without specifying the exact place or losses. Earlier on October 30, 2021, SANA had used the exact same statement, changing only the time and place of the attack.
“I call on all countries of the region to stop Iran’s harm to their sovereignty and to their citizens. Israel will not allow Iran to stream game-changing weapons to its proxies and to threaten our citizens,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Iran on Tuesday, December 28, 2021, hours after the Israeli army struck Iranian-shipped weapons in the port of Latakia in Syria.
The Times of Israel pointed out that the Israeli army believes it has significantly limited Iran's ability to transfer weapons and equipment through Syria over the past year through air strikes, adding that it plans to continue to do so in 2022.
The Israeli army acknowledged that it carried out 50 raids on targets in Syria in 2020, including 20 specific operations on the Lebanese and Syrian borders.
The following chart shows the location of each raid, its target, and the recorded number of dead, which the IranWire team counted based on information gathered from sources within the militias, local media, and social networking sites.
The Importance of the Syrian Regime to Tehran
The Islamic Republic has provided support to Bashar al-Assad’s regime ever since the Syrian uprisings first began in 2011. This has included logistical, technical, and financial support in addition to training the Syrian army and sending some Iranian combat forces to Syria.
Tehran considers the Syrian regime crucial to advancing its own regional interests, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced in September 2011 that the Islamic Republic would support the Syrian regime. Ali Khamenei described the ongoing fighting in Syria as a war between Islam and non-believers. He added: “The door for martyrdom, which was closed by the end of the Iranian-Iraqi war, is now open in Syria.” However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied, in a press interview he gave to the Russian Sputnik agency on October 7, 2020, the presence of any Iranian forces inside his country.
14 Sites Previously Named on IranWire Targeted
At the end of 2020, IranWire published an interactive map of about 150 sites where the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and affiliated groups were concentrated in Syria. At least 14 sites were later struck in 2021. IranWire designed the map with the help of Syrians resentful of the Iranian presence, in addition to our correspondents and sources close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The map was verified by what Iranian militants published on social media in the Persian language, and what local residents circulated on social networking sites.
For a map showing the sites that were struck at a later time, visit IranWire's Arabic page.