Analysis: Did the IAF strike in Syria in response to public declaration by Iranian Revolutionary Guard on transfer of advanced missiles to Hezbollah?
The strikes in Syria on Sunday afternoon, which have been attributed to the Israeli Air Force, were likely intended to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard continues to play with fire by equipping Hezbollah with arms that have the capability to cause widespread losses and destruction in Israel.
It is widely believed that shipments of missiles and other arms destined for Hezbollah land in Iranian cargo jets at the airport in Damascus, then transferred to a Syrian military storage site, until they are sent to over the border to Lebanon.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has previously announced the three red lines according to which Israel takes action on the northern front:
- The transfer of "game-changing" weaponry to Hezbollah
- Chemical weapons
- Any harm to Israeli sovereignty
Since there had been no recent case of breaking Israeli sovereignty, the likely assumption is that the attack was undertaken because of high-end weaponry transferred to Hezbollah or the transfer of chemical weapons – or both.
In recent weeks, many Hezbollah officials and senior members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have publicly boasted about the advanced ground-to-ground missiles which Iran supplied Hezbollah and which allow the terror group to threaten almost any target within Israel.
Analysts believe the officials were boasting of the Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles.
It is in the realm of possibility that several shipments of these missiles occurred, significantly upgrading Hezbollah's capability to unleash destruction on Israel territory as far south as the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
It is also likely that Sunday's attack was intended to stop another shipment scheduled to arrive at Damascus international airport, from where it was to be transferred to the Lebanese border.
Russia demanded Monday that Jerusalem provide explanations following reports that Israeli jets had carried out multiple airstrikes on two targets in Syria, reportedly killing two Hezbollah operatives.
Moscow, considered a main backer of Syria’s ruling regime, said it had turned to the United Nations to bring Israel to account for the strikes, which reportedly targeted weapons shipments at two sites outside Damascus.
“It is important to prevent additional risks of further destabilization of the extremely tense situation in Syria and in the Middle East region as a whole,” he added.
Russia sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decrying the “aggressive actions of Israel” and issued “an appeal to prevent the recurrence of such attacks in the future,” the statement in Russian read.
Moscow remains a staunch supporter of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, repeatedly blocking attempts at the UN Security Council over the years to pass resolutions against his government.
Earlier Monday, the Syrian and Iranian foreign ministries condemned Israel for the airstrikes, calling the operation an act of aggression that proved Israel was “in the same trench” with extremist groups fighting the Syrian government.
Washington has discreetly accused Iran of violating United Nations-imposed restrictions on purchasing materials for a nuclear facility, a US magazine reported Monday.
Washington has evidence that Iran is attempting to purchase equipment needed for its heavy-water reactor at Arak, but has not publicly addressed the reported non-compliance, Foreign Policy reported, citing parts of a document compiled by US officials.
Foreign Policy said it obtained portions of the confidential briefing, which does not name the US, that outlined the allegations of non-compliance.