According to a report published Monday, Iran has at least 10 bases in various locations in Syria, two of those close to the border with Israel. Iranian personnel together with Iranian-backed militias make up about 20,000 fighters in the war-torn country, the report said.

Iranian missile displayed (archive)

Iranian missile displayed (archive) Photo Credit: EPA

Iran has 10 military bases throughout Syria, two of those are located near the Israeli border, said a New York Times report published Monday. The report puts the number of Iranian military personnel and Iranian backed militias in Syria to be as many as 20,000 in strength.

According to Monday’s report, the Iranian-backed forces include about 6,000 members of the Hezbollah terror organization. The rest consist of paid militants from Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Speaking to the New York Times, Ali Alfoneh, a researcher at US-based think tank the Atlantic Council, said he had identified three key Iranian bases that oversee operations in the country, two of those located south of Damascus, close to the Israeli border. He also said there were seven smaller, more tactical bases along several front lines in Syria. “Iran has realized that it is actually possible to maintain a front against Israel where there is no war but also no peace,” explained Alfoneh.

Israel has repeatedly warned against the increasing Iranian presence in Syria and along its northern border. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Israeli accusations and denied that Tehran has military bases in the war-torn country. Zarif told reporters that Iran has not sent military forces to the Syria for combat purposes, but that it only sent military advisors to aid the Syrian government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Munich Security Conference threatened that “Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck, we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself.” In response, Zarif said: “Well, if they try to exercise that threat, they will see the response.”