Iran vows to hit back at Israel over Syria air strike

File photo showing the Iranian flag on an oil production platform in the Persian Gulf.
File photo showing the Iranian flag on an oil production platform in the Persian Gulf.PHOTO: REUTERS

TEHERAN • Iran yesterday said the number of its soldiers killed in an air strike on a Syrian regime air base this week has risen to seven and that it would not go unanswered.

Iranian media reported that seven bodies had been flown back to Teheran for burial following Monday's strike against the T-4 airbase in Homs.

Syria, Russia and Iran have blamed Israel for the attack, which Teheran had initially said killed four military advisers.

"The Zionist regime's attack on Syria will not go unanswered," said Mr Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Iran is a key ally of the Syrian government, alongside Russia, and Mr Velayati was speaking on arrival in Damascus where he was to meet President Bashar al-Assad, according to ISNA.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hit back at US President Donald Trump, who has said Russia and Iran share the blame for an alleged chemical attack in a rebel-held town in Syria.

Iran "has consistently condemned use of chemical weapons by anyone (and) is itself the victim of their use by Saddam (Hussein) with US support", Mr Zarif wrote on Twitter, referring to chemical attacks during Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Mr Trump's "threat to repeat impulsive acts of aggression is symptomatic of US policy helping extremists", Mr Zarif added.

The US President has threatened a "forceful" response to the alleged chemical attack.

Israel has not confirmed whether it carried out Monday's deadly strikes. But Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday said his country would not accept Iranian entrenchment in Syria after missile strikes on a Syrian regime air base blamed on Israel.

"We will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria no matter the price to pay," he told journalists. "We have no other option. Allowing Iran to strengthen itself in Syria is like accepting that the Iranians strangle us."

Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in Syria's civil war, but it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to its enemy Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite group that is backing Mr Assad's regime.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Iran vows to hit back at Israel over Syria air strike'. Print Edition | Subscribe