Speaking to the newspaper's senior analyst Thomas Friedman, the officer said the attack—which claimed the lives of seven Iranian soldiers—was "the first time we attacked live Iranian targets—both facilities and people."
In the rare admission of Israeli responsibility for a strike, the officer told Friedman, "This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel, not by proxy. This opened a new period."
The IDF recently released a statement saying the drone was carrying explosives and was intended to be used to carry out a terror attack on Israeli soil.
The Times' analysis piece, titled "The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel", noted that one of the Iranian casualties in the strike on the T-4 base was Col. Mehdi Dehghan, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps's Quds Force's drone unit.
Global attention was diverted from the Israeli attack, Friedman wrote, and focused on the lead-up to the American-led strike on the Syrian chemical weapons facilities, the strike itself and its aftermath.
It remained unclear how the aforementioned strike will sway tensions engendered between Israel and Iran over the latter's presence and entrenchment in Syria, on the backdrop of the attack on the Iranian drone complex created within the Syrian air force's T-4 base near Homs early last week—which was attributed to Israel.
The IDF was girding itself for an Iranian retaliation, the Times article said, but expected it to be proportional and measured. If such a retaliatory strike carried a toll of Israeli lives, however, tensions may spill over in the already combustible region.
Several moves undertaken last week attested to the Iranian determination to retaliate, Friedman said. First is the Iranian admission that its officers were killed in the original strike and their intentionally public and publicized funeral in Tehran—contrary to previous instances of Iranian casualties being severely downplayed by the Islamic republic.
Second is the Russian statement outing the identity of the country that carried out the strike—fingering Israel—and the third is repeated statements by Iranians officials that Israel will suffer a counterstrike.
By unveiling last week that the Iranian drone that entered the Jordan Valley through Syrian airspace two months ago was to be used to carry out an attack in the country, Israel wanted to send a message to all of the actors involved—chiefly Russia—regarding the fact that Iran is now directly and openly operating against Israel in belligerent actions both on and above the ground.
The IDF is therefore permitted to do its part to stop the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, as per the Times' columnist.
However, Israel was still doing its due diligence to prevent a possible Iranian retaliatory strike by sending messages through indirect channels, conveying the reasons such a strike will only harm all those involved.