The firing of S-200 missiles by Syria at Israeli air force planes on Thursday night marked a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict between the two nations, who are technically still at war.
Over the past few years there has been several airstrikes carried out by Israel against targets in Syria, most believed to be related to weapons transfers to Hezbollah.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have stated publicly that Israel will do whatever is necessary to prevent "game changing weapons" getting into the hands of this terrorist group.
Israel does not usually confirm or deny such attacks, but it was forced to do so this time by the circumstances of the incident, including the firing of the Arrow defense system.
The Arrow s first-ever operational interception was the result of Syria's air-defense forces launching a long-rane S-200 missile in an attempt to shoot down Israeli planes. Syria's military has claimed it downed one of the Israeli planes and hit another, however Israel denies any of it's planes were hit.
The loud explosion that many residents of the region heard as far away as Jerusalem was the interception by the Arrow 2 missile, which was forced to fire due to the long rang missile endangering civilian populations.
The Syrian retaliatory missile launch occurred when IAF aircraft had already passed into Israeli airspace and had now become a direct threat to civilian populations.
Parts of the missile have been found in Jordan which also forced Israel to issue an official explanation for the event.
Many analysts believe the firing of the missile demonstrates a new confidence by Assad in the region after winning several key battles with rebels and ISIS, including the important city of Aleppo.
Perhaps even more important is the strategic backing of Russia which seems to guarantee his survival as Syria's continued leader.
With this being the most serious incident between the two countries in many years, the big question is what happens next time?
Arms shipments to Hezbollah are unlikely to stop and neither is Israel's response to what it says are "red lines" that can't be crossed.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman may have already answered the question when he responded to the incident on Sunday threatening to destroy Syrian air defense systems should they fire on Israel again.
The Israeli drone that targeted the Syrian militiaman Yasser Sayad outside the Golan town of Quneitra Sunday, March 19, reinforced the message first carried by the Israeli Arrow 2 which shot down a Syrian SA-5 anti-air missile Friday. The Israeli ambassador was called twice to the Russian foreign ministry.
Both hits were precise: Sayad was on his way to join the Hizballah forces who are trampling Syrian rebel villages on the Hermon slopes to clear their path to the Golan; and the Syrian SA-5 was intercepted microseconds before hitting the Israeli jets attacking a consignment of Hizballah weapons outside the Syria T4 base near Palmyra, where a Russian contingent is also housed.
After the air strike, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow Cary Koren was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry to hear a warning from Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov to stop interfering with Russian plans for Syria.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Al Jaafari reflected the Assad regime's sense of empowerment when he said following the Israeli air strikes in northern Syria: “The Syrian response was appropriate and changed the rules of the game.” He claimed that Israel had been sternly warned by Moscow to stop such attacks and therefore its leaders “will think long before taking similar action in future.”
Nonetheless, two days later, the IDF was again in action, this time on the Syrian Golan. A-Sayad was killed outside Quneitra as testimony of Israel’s resolve to continue to wage warfare against the Iranian and Hizballah military presence in Syria and their aggressive push towards its borders.
And Sunday, Ambassador Koren was called to the foreign ministry in Moscow for a second dressing-down, this one, undoubtedly sterner than the first, seeing that Israel had escalated its face-off with Moscow on this issue and raised the stakes for a potential IDF clash with Russian forces in Syria, for better or for worse.
Jerusalem was further alarmed Sunday by discovering that an Iraqi Shiite militia was on the way, under the command of Iran’s Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleiman, to reinforce Hizballah’s Hermon-Golan offensive. This militia, called the Al-Nojba Movement, consisting of 1,500 Iraqi Shiite fighters, is the pet project of Hizballah’s deputy chief Sheikh Naieem Qassem, who sent officers to train them.
The U.S. military's "reassurance and deterrence" mission in the Syrian city of Manbij is achieving its goal of preventing key American allies from battling one another, the Pentagon said Monday, but what's already a tense situation could become more complicated with the arrival of Russian troops and continued advances by Turkish-backed rebels.
The Americans and Russians have had no close interaction on the ground, Davis said. Moscow, he added, has "kept us abreast of their operations" in Manbij, but the two militaries do not coordinate in Syria. Rather, the Pentagon prefers the term "deconflict."
The dynamic in Syria is deeply complex. U.S. troops there are focused on training and assisting local forces fighting the Islamic State. Their presence has swelled to around 1,000 in recent weeks with the addition of a Marine Corps artillery unit focused on the ISIS capital of Raqqa and the Army Rangers sent to Manbij. The Russians are backing Syrian President Bashar al Assad, whose military continues to battle rebel groups seeking to oust him from power.