It seems that gone are the days when Israel would infiltrate the Syrian airspace for hit-and-run strikes, as the Syrian side has upped its game in such confrontation, starting with shooting back on Israeli warplanes and most recently responding to an attack with another attack on Israel, the first of its kind since the Arab-Israeli war in 1973.
Worrying about the Syrian government’s alliance with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Israel has repeatedly struck Syrian positions throughout the Syrian crisis, on the pretext that the targets contain weapon shipments sent from Iran that would end up in the hands of Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government accuses Israel of aiding the rebels in southern Syria close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, backed by video footage emerging about how Israel is offering medical treatment to the rebels.
At some point, observers believed that Israel was aiding rebels to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border akin to what it did in Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.
With the progress of the Syrian army and its allies on the ground, which has apparently sparked Israel’s fears, the Jewish country increased its attacks, repeatedly warning that the Iranian military presence in Syria won’t be tolerated.
The Israeli strikes, however, have also become intolerable by Syria, which cannot just keep taking in such attacks that target its sovereignty without punching back.
The turning point between the Israel-Syrian confrontation appeared in February, when the Syrian army said it shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet, which targeted an air base in the central province of Homs on the pretext that an Iranian drone was sent from the base and infiltrated the Israeli airspace.
In April, Israel carried out an attack on the T-4 air base in Homs, killing a number of fighters including Iranians.
On April 14, the U.S., France, and Britain launched a series of missile strikes on military positions in Syria over its alleged chemical attack in a formerly rebel-held area near Damascus.
The U.S.-led attacks were seen by analysts as a planned assault that played in the hands of Israelis.
On May 8, Israel targeted a Syrian military site in the Kisweh area in the southwestern countryside of the capital Damascus, with activists saying 15 people were killed, including eight Iranians.
Since then, Israel was anticipating a payback from Iran, particularly with all the wrangling about Iran’s international nuclear deal, as Israel has been a staunch opponent to the deal along with President Donald Trump, who announced his country’s withdrawal from the deal on May 8.
On May 9, Israel fired on military positions in Qunaitera, but this time the response was not just air defenses. Actual rockets slammed Israeli military positions inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The targeted Israeli military sites include a military reconnaissance center, a position for border security, a military center for electronic jamming, a military center for spying on wireless and wired networks, a communication station, an observatory for precision weapons, a gunships heliport, the headquarters of the regional military command of brigade-810, the command center of the military battalion in Hermon, and the winter headquarters of the special snow unit, according to the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV.
Later, the Israelis launched a series of missiles strikes on Syrian military positions, and said that it had targeted Iranian military bases in the country.
A Syrian military statement, however, said that most of the Israeli missiles were destroyed before hitting their targets, adding that a radar station was hit as well as air defenses battalions, stressing readiness to respond to any “aggression.”
For their side, the Israeli army said that the overnight Israeli airstrikes on Syria have set back Iran’s military capabilities there by “many months.”
Israel’s military said its air force struck “dozens” of military targets belonging to the Iranian al-Quds forces in Syria overnight between Wednesday and Thursday.
Also, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman Friday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to expel Iranian forces from Syria.
“I will take this opportunity to send a message to Assad: Get rid of the Iranians … get rid of the Quds Force,” Lieberman said during a tour in the town of Katzrin in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Maher Ihsan, a Syrian political expert, told Xinhua that Israel has received a strong message that its missiles and warplanes will not only be responded with air defenses, but the attacks will be retaliated as it recently happened in Qunaitera, where the response to the attacks came almost instantly and targeted Israeli military positions in the Golan Heights.
“It’s the first hot escalation and actual crossfire between both sides since the Arab-Israeli 1973 war and it’s an indication that the Syrian side and its allies will not stand idle about any future Israeli strikes,” he said.
On possible escalation into a full-fledged war, Ihsan said no one wants an open regional war, but what is happening is an attempt by the U.S. and Israel to contain the Iranian regional influence, particularly in Syria and this “tussle started when the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal.”
“But this means that the area is open to several eventualities, as we have mentioned before that any Israeli attacks will no longer pass unnoticed,” he noted. Enditem