Syrian state media began the day on Tuesday (April 17) claiming Israel had launched an air strike early Tuesday morning on the Shayrat Air Base near Homs, but within hours completely changed the statement to say there had been no attack at all.
The earlier report included the claim by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) that Syrian air defenses had managed to shoot down at least nine Israeli missiles, but left out information about whether any of the missiles had hit their target.
The pro-regime Al-Masdar News website said it had been told by a Syrian military source that the target was actually the T-4 Military Airport, as several explosions were heard in that area.
An unnamed a commander from the regional military alliance supporting the Assad regime told the Reuters news agency hours later that a cyber attack had triggered a “false alarm” that resulted in a number of air defense missiles being fired, and there had been no attack on Syria.
The commander said Israel and the United States had, instead, launched “a joint electronic attack” on Syrian radar systems, which had been dealt with by Russian experts.
The Shayrat Air Base was, in fact, attacked by the United States in 2017 in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces.
The Israel Defense Forces are on high alert in anticipation of a likely retaliation by Iran over the air strike on the Tiyus (T-4) air base last week which killed 14 personnel, including seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran has vowed to punish Israel for the attack, which targeted Tehran’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone program at the base. Earlier this year, Iran sent a military stealth drone into Israeli air space, loaded with explosives with the apparent intent to carry out an attack on Israeli territory.
It was the first direct attack carried out against Israel by Iran without the use of proxies, from Syrian territory. Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence to be established in Syria.
Yona Schnitzer and TPS contributed content to this report.