tunnels iraqi border
© ImageSat International
Satellite images showing an alleged Iranian tunnel on a military base near the border crossing in Syria's Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, on December 10, 2019
In recent years, Israel has repeatedly accused Iran of deploying forces and weapons in Syria as part of a proxy war against Tel Aviv, and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against alleged 'Iranian' or 'Iran-backed' forces in the war-torn country. Tehran says its assistance has been limited to helping Damascus in its fight against terrorism.

Israeli intelligence company ImageSat International has released a series of satellite images it claims show efforts by Iranian or 'pro-Iranian' forces to build a tunnel at a military base near the Syrian-Iraqi border to facilitate the transfer and storage of advanced weapons and large vehicles.

According to the satellite data, reportedly gathered between September and December, the tunnel's construction was picked up near the border crossing point at Abu Kamal-al-Qaim, and effectively comprises an underground "Iranian military base," with the tunnel's 4-5 meter width making it suitable to store "trucks and big vehicles," as well as "advanced weapon systems or sensitive elements," against possible air attack. ImageSat has yet to determine the tunnel's length.

Citing media reports, ImageSat says the tunnel is being built at the Imam Ali base, which the company claims is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, an elite formation responsible for extraterritorial operations.

According to the company, the tunnel's "accelerated construction" started after the Imam Ali base was attacked in September. The attack allegedly saw a convoy of Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) militia hit by a pair of drones, killing six, including a PMF commander. The Iraqi militia blamed Israel for the attack.

Earlier this week, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett warned Iranian officials that Syria would become Tehran's "Vietnam," and that Iranian efforts to entrench themselves in the country would result in "bleeding" because "we will work without hesitation to remove aggressive forces from Syria."

Israel has repeatedly targeted Syria for strikes against what it claims is 'Iranian' or 'Iranian-backed' targets in recent years, accusing Tehran of using Syria as a proxy to threaten Israel. Tehran has claimed its Syrian presence has been limited to assisting the Syrian government in its fight against Daesh (ISIS)* and other terrorist groups, while Damascus has repeatedly appealed to the United Nations over Tel Aviv's repeated aggression and violation of its airspace. Along with Syria, Israel has also stepped up attacks in recent months against what it says are Iranian-backed forces in areas including Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Iraq.

*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.