Iran 'retreating' from Syria sites after Israeli strikes: reports
The Israeli military reported a "limited" withdrawal of Iranian and Hezbollah forces at some bases in Syria, which have come under sustained attack by Israeli forces for several years, according to The Jerusalem Post.
A senior Israeli officer told reporters on Thursday that the withdrawals are "a result of the [Israeli] strikes".
Such a withdrawal could also be due to Moscow's demands that Iran pull its fighters from several key sites in Syria which lie close to Russian bases, Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported.
Russia reportedly fears casualties among its own ranks with the recent escalation in Israeli air strikes, as Moscow deals with its own manpower issues due to recent set-backs in the invasion of Ukraine.
Iran sent thousands of militia fighters and commanders to Syria to bolster the Damascus regime after an uprising threatened Bashar Al-Assad's rule.
Iranian-linked militia and military bases have since been repeatedly targeted in Israeli airstrikes across Syria, with Damascus and Aleppo civilian airports recently hit due to alleged Tehran weapons movements at the sites.
Israel claims Iran and Hezbollah's presence in Syria poses a exisential threat to the country and that it is particularly concerned about alleged rocket-making factories in the country.
It also alleges Iran is using Syria as a conduit for arms shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon, a militant group Israel has clashed with several times over the past three decades.
On Monday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz revealed a map he claims shows 10 Iranian weapons factories in Syria.
"Iran transformed CERS [research centre] into production facilities for mid and long-range, precise missiles and weapons, provided to Hezbollah and Iranian proxies. In other words, it became yet another Iranian front - a factory for advanced, strategic weapons," Gantz told a crowd in New York.
Hamas on Thursday condemned Israeli strikes in Syria, as it announced the Palestinian movement would normalise ties with the Syrian regime.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid are reportedly in direct contact about Iran's presence in Syria.
Analysts believe recent Israeli strikes on civilian targets, such as Aleppo and Damascus airport, have damaged the prestige of the regime, which is already responsible for the lion's share of the 500,000 dead in Syria's war.