Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Iran Admits Launching Drone Attacks against Anti-Assad Rebels in Syria

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(Photo : IRI) Shahed-129 armed with air-to-surface missiles.

For the first time, Iran has admitted using its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack rebel opponents of its ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, in operations around the Syrian capital of Damascus and also in Iraq.

Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, revealed Iranian UAVs were carrying out pinpoint strikes against various rebel groups, which include those allied with the United States and probably ISIL. He also made the claim the Iranian UAVs can hit targets in an area as small as one square meter.

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"These UAVs are being used to hit terrorist targets in Syria and Iraq," he said.

Western military observers confirmed the Iranian aerial drone strikes, which they said were carried out by Shahed-129 UAVs firing Sadid-1 missiles, an air-to-surface missile modified into glide bombs.

Shahed-129 was publicly unveiled by Iran in September 2012 and went into mass production a year later. It was spotted in Syria in 2014 after pictures emerged showing it in operations around Damascus. At that time, it was believed the UAV was conducting surveillance missions and wasn't armed.

Iranian media channel SimaNews aired videos showing two Shahed-129 UAVs at an undisclosed airfield. It also showed electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) imagery taken from the UAV's weapon systems showing them striking vehicles and other targets in Aleppo, Syria and on Iran's western borders.

This video taken in early August was the first to demonstrate the offensive capabilities of Iranian drones.

Hezbollah, a Shi'a militant group allied with Iran, released a video that appears to show one of its UAVs launching three attacks against anti-Assad rebels in the village of Khalsa, southwest of Aleppo. Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV has also shown UAV videos during Hezbollah offensives in Syria and Lebanon.

Hezbollah drones such as the Yasir (which was reverse engineered from a captured U.S. drone) are launching more attacks after Hezbollah entered the conflict in Syria in 2013.

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