Iran is seeking by all means to strengthen Syrian anti-aircraft and missile defense against frequent Israeli raids, a senior Iranian army official said on Monday, without specifying the nature of the military assistance. The official nevertheless added that “everything will be announced in due course”.

Brigadier General Hamza Qalandari, a senior official in the Iranian Defense Ministry, confirmed that Iran is seeking to bolster Syria’s air defense in various ways, to enable it to deal with Israeli threats.

In an interview with Iran’s Fars news agency, Qalandari pointed out that the Syrian government is witnessing “a wide range of threats, despite its missile and air defense capabilities.”

He added that the Islamic Republic’s military assistance could be in the form of modernizing certain equipment, changing tactics, as well as modifying equipment and weapons in the Syrian arsenal.

The head of international affairs at the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces, Brigadier General Hamza Qalandari. (Fars Agency)

“Efforts are underway to strengthen Syrian air defense capabilities using various systems, including medium and long range, which will be announced in due course,” the general said.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made a two-day visit to Damascus in early May, the first by an Islamic Republic head of state since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

Raisi, who had concluded no less than fifteen trade and economic agreements with Bashar al-Assad, congratulated Syria for its “victory despite the sanctions” imposed on the regime, after 12 years of conflict which left more than 500,000 dead.

He assured his Syrian counterpart that Iran “will stand alongside its Syrian brothers in the field of development and progress” during the reconstruction phase.

General Qalandari’s statements come as Israeli airstrikes targeted positions of the Syrian army’s anti-aircraft forces, overnight from Sunday through Monday where Lebanese Hezbollah fighters are also deployed, injuring five, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

These are the first Israeli strikes on Syria since the beginning of May, when raids on the north of the country had put the Aleppo airport out of service, killing nine people, according to a new report from the OSDH.

Since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on regime positions as well as Iranian and Hezbollah forces, allies of Damascus and sworn enemies of Israel. Israel rarely comments on these strikes on a case-by-case basis, but says it wants to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

Roger Barake, with agencies.