Iran has constructed another military base in Syria with the ability to host missiles that can strike any part of Israel, according to ImageSat International satellite images obtained exclusively by Fox News.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) al-Quds Force reportedly operates the base, which is located outside of the Syrian capital Damascus.
Iran already oversees a military compound near the Damascus airport and other high-profile airbases and permanent military sites across the country.
The U.S. and Israel are very concerned about Iran's ongoing efforts to consolidate permanent operating bases in Syria. Since intervening in that country's civil war in 2011, the Islamic Republic has been working to cement a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut through Syria.
Earlier this month, Israel shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel's airspace. Israeli jets subsequently bombed several military targets in Syria, including some under Iranian control. In the process, Syrian air defenses downed an Israeli jet — the first time an Israeli military aircraft had been taken out by enemy fire since the 1980s.
This escalation marks the first direct confrontation between Israeli and Iranian forces. Iran may have deployed the drone to conduct surveillance or to test Israel's air defenses and provoke an Israeli response. Regardless of the primary motivation, the incident shows that Iran is increasingly emboldened and willing to use Syria as a base to challenge Israel directly.
Israel has set red lines throughout the Syrian civil war, focused on preventing "game-changing" weapons from landing in Hezbollah's hands and a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. Israel leaders understand that it cannot remove Iranian forces from its borders alone and have engaged in diplomatic initiatives with the U.S. and Russia to negotiate a potential buffer zone free of an Iranian presence.
In the meantime, Iran is ignoring these understandings and continues to expand its reach in an effort to open another front against Israel in a future war. The latest military base outside Damascus is yet another example of Iran encroaching on Israel's borders.
With the downfall of the Islamic State as a military force in Syria, Iran and its proxies —including Hezbollah and other Shi'a militias — are now focusing their efforts on the destruction of the Jewish state.
Steven Emerson is executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He was a correspondent for CNN and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. Read more reports from Steve Emerson — Click Here Now.
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