The Israel Defense Forces confirmed late Saturday that the Air Force had a short time earlier struck targets near Damascus in order to foil an "attempt by the (Iranian Revolutionary Guard's) Al Quds force to carry out a terror attack " from Syrian soil.
According to the IDF, the attack was to be carried out by drones were sent from Syria to hit Israeli targets.
The Air Force was placed on high alert at bases around the country and Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed in the north.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, held security consultations at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
Conricus said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an "advanced attempt" to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said.
"We were able to thwart this attack with fighter jets," he said, saying the Iranian attack was believed to be "very imminent."
He said Israel's chief of staff was meeting with senior officers and forces were on high alert near the Syrian frontier.
On Twitter, Netanyahu called the strike by IAF warplanes a "major operational effort."
"Iran has no immunity anywhere," he said. "If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first."
In a major operational effort, we have thwarted an attack against Israel by the Iranian Quds Force & Shi'ite militias. I reiterate: Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression. “If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.”— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 24, 2019
Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, most of them aimed at arms shipments believed to be headed from Iran to its Shiite proxy Hezbollah. Direct clashes between Israel and Iranian forces have been rare.
"This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months," Conricus said. "It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force."
Syrian state TV announced late Saturday that the country's air defenses had responded to "hostile" targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
State TV did not give further details about the Israeli attack.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has repeatedly vowed that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, where Iranian troops have been fighting in support of President Bashar Assad during the country's eight-year civil war.
In recent days, U.S. officials have said that Israeli strikes have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.