Missing Peace | missingpeace.eu | EN

Israel adopts new Syria policy: IAF strikes Syrian divisions

By Missing Peace

According to Arab media, the Israeli Air Force attacked several missile depots in Syria last week. Al-Arabiya reported that a first strike took place on Wednesday when two missile depots were targeted.

On Saturday, Divisions 155 and 65 of the Syrian army were targeted. Both divisions possess Assad’s “strategic weapons.”  According to al-Arabiya, the targets were Scud missile depots housed in military bases.

Al Jazeera reported on Saturday that several explosions were heard in Kteife, Yabrud, and Kalamun in the Qalamoun mountains. The area is known for housing weapon depots and missile launchers.

On Sunday, the Israeli air force killed four Hezbollah terrorists who crossed the Israeli border on the Golan Heights and intended to carry out an attack with an explosive device.

IDF spokesman Col. Peter Lerner said the cell hit Sunday night consisted of four people who were “identified while laying a mine and were shot by an Israeli Air Force aircraft.”

On Sunday night, Arab media again reported an Israel air strike in the Qalamoun mountains, northeast of Damascus. Later, unnamed Israeli sources told the Hebrew news site Ynet that Israel was not involved in the attack. They claimed Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qeada offshoot in Syria, was responsible for the new assault. It could be that Israel tried to defuse tensions by spinning the news. This reporter noticed unusual activity by the Israeli air force at the time of the strike.

Israel has attacked missile transports and weapon depots in Syria more than ten times since the war in Syria started. The last strike took place in January, when the IAF bombed a Hezbollah convoy on the Syrian side of the border with Israel in the Kuneitra area on the Golan Heights. Several high-ranking Iranian and Hezbollah commanders were killed in that airstrike.

Nine days later, Hezbollah retaliated with an attack with two advanced Kornet missiles on two Israeli Humvees in the Har Dov area, killing 2 IDF soldiers and wounding seven others.

Almost all IAF strikes in Syria were directed at Hezbollah-bound weapon deliveries by Iran. Iran has tried to deliver its own version of the Russian S-300 air missile defense system and other missiles such as the Fateh 110 rocket to Hezbollah. In 2013 alone, the IAF prevented the delivery of this advanced missile five times.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday that Iran is in the midst of an effort to arm Hezbollah and Hamas. “Israel will not tolerate the transfer of advanced weaponry to its enemies,” he added.

Last week, Israel’s Commander in Chief of the Air Force,  Amir Eshel, warned that Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon toward a “very harsh war” and has deployed its military machine in houses in civilian areas in South Lebanon.

Homes where missiles have been deployed by Hezbollah, Eshel warned, “are essentially military bases… and we’ll hit them.

“Lebanese civilians who live in or close to those homes have to know one thing,” he said. If conflict erupts, “they should get out as soon as they can.”

If Hezbollah, with which Israel fought a bitter war in 2006, sparks another conflict, Eshel said, “Lebanon will go through an experience whose dimensions it cannot imagine. I wouldn’t trade places with a single Lebanese.”

Hezbollah responded by publishing an article on its website al-Manar in which unnamed Israeli analysts were quoted as saying that a war with Hezbollah was considered Israel’s most serious challenge in 2015. In the same article, Hezbollah bragged about its 100,000 missiles that “will destroy the Israeli infrastructure, power facilities, the residential buildings and Zionist military command headquarters.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly used this threat in an attempt to deter Israel. The Hezbollah leader has warned Israel that his organization now possesses guided missiles that can hit strategic installations in Israel everywhere, even in the Negev desert in southern Israel.

If the Arab media reports about the IAF attacks in Syria are correct, it is another indication that Israel has drawn new red lines vis-à-vis Iran’s activities in Syria.

Syrian Scud missiles pose no direct threat to Israel. Assad’s army is bogged down in the Syrian civil war, and the Syrian dictator will certainly not be interested in a confrontation with the IDF at this point.

So why did Israel decide to launch the air strikes?

The answer is that the attacks on Assad’s Scud missiles could be a signal to Hezbollah and Iran that the rules of the game have changed–and that Israel will do everything it can to stop an Iranian takeover of Syria.

Just like Saudi Arabia and Egypt decided to interfere in the civil war in Yemen in order to stop Iran’s rush for regional hegemony, Israel appears to be doing the same in Syria now–albeit on a smaller scale.

Israel is no longer trying to stop the shipment of missiles for the sake of prevention, but to deter the enemy from using Syria as a beachhead for an assault on the Jewish state. Some Israeli commentators said that the attack on the Syrian divisions was the result of intelligence that indicated that a new Hezbollah missile strike at the Golan Heights was imminent.

In light of this assessment, it is also important to take a look at what is going on in the Gaza strip. As Western Journalism reported last week, Hamas and Iran are cooperating again; and Iran is apparently supplying Hamas with weapons, cash, and machinery to dig tunnels.

In the south and north of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is condoning the formation of new Iranian-backed factions other than Islamic Jihad. In Rafah in the south, Salafists supporting al-Qaeda are helping terrorists cross from Sinai via tunnels.

In the north, Hezbollah in Gaza has reappeared. The group is called Harakat as-Sabeereen Natzran Le-Palastin (“The Patient Ones’ Movement for the Liberation of Palestine”), which sometimes goes by the acronym of Hesn (“fortification”). Their flag is almost a mirror image of the Hezbollah banner, with the small addition of a map of greater Palestine.

The new Hezbollah branch is opposed to any hudna (interim cease-fire) with Israel and has been pressuring Hamas to renew its rocket fire on Israel. On its Facebook page, the group claimed as theirs a terror attack in the West Bank some two weeks ago, in which two IDF soldiers were stabbed.

The news about Iran’s renewed support of terrorist activity in the Gaza strip coincided with the first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza since the end of Operation Protective Edge last summer. On Independence Day, sirens went off in southern Israel; and a rocket fell in the area of the town of Sederot. The IDF immediately retaliated with tank fire on a Hamas terror site near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

This article first appeared on Western Journalism.com