Iran is establishing a permanent military base inside Syria, the BBC has reported. It cited a Western intelligence source. The base is reported to have been built by the Iranian military at a site used by the Syrian regime’s army outside Al Kiswah, 14km south of Damascus.

The BBC commissioned satellite images that appear to show construction activity at the site between January and October this year. There appear to be two dozen large low-rise buildings, which could be intended as housing for soldiers, and for vehicles.

Additional buildings have been added to the site of late. However, it is impossible to independently verify the purpose of the site and the presence of the Iranian military, the BBC said.

Iran has been a strong backer of the regime of President Bashar Al Assad throughout the Syrian war. Major General Qasim Sulaimani, head of the Quds force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, was photographed in Deir Al Zor shortly after Daesh was driven out of the town.

The BBC said “the images of the base do not reveal any signs of large or unconventional weaponry which means if it was a base it would most likely be to house soldiers and vehicles”.