The Israeli army on Saturday launched a military strike on three Syrian artillery targets across the border in the northern Golan Heights, hours after a pair of projectiles landed in an open field in Israeli territory as a result of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria.
“Even if this is just spillover, this is an exceptional incident and the continuance of such events will be met with a more fierce Israeli response,” a statement by the Israel Defense Forces said of the projectile fire into the Jewish state.
“The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its residents, and considers the Syrian regime responsible for what is happening in its territory,” the statement concluded.
As a result of the projectile fire, missile warning sirens were heard in a number of local communities Saturday morning.
The army said soldiers were searching the area for debris.
There were no reports of injuries or property damage.
After the IDF strike, the Syrian army said in a statement that the attack was proof of Israel’s “cooperation with terrorist organizations in the region,” and warned the Jewish state that it would retaliate to any “aggressive actions,” the Walla news site reported.
On Thursday, a projectile struck an open field on the Golan Heights in an apparent case of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said.
In response to the shelling, Israeli tanks stationed near the border fired back at the Syrian military position in Quneitra on Thursday evening. The IDF said the mortar position it attacked was the same one that fired the shell earlier in the day.
No siren was sounded as the warning system detected the projectile would land in an uninhabited area.
Thursday’s flareup came after Israeli jets bombed an anti-aircraft battery near Damascus earlier in the week which had fired on an Israeli plane.
On Wednesday afternoon, rocket sirens rang out in IDF bases in the Golan Heights, set off by internal fighting across the border.
Speaking shortly after the sirens, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel had “all the tools needed to deal” with the challenge of Iran in Syria, one of the strongest backers of Assad’s regime.
“The Iranians are trying to take control of Syria to become the dominant power there,” he said.
Also Wednesday, Iran’s military chief of staff warned that Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies.
Early Wednesday morning, the United States Embassy in Syria received a surprise visitor — a Russian three-star general carrying a message. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained. “A Russian official in Baghdad this morning informed U.S. Embassy personnel that Russian military aircraft would begin flying anti-ISIL missions today over Syria. He further requested that U.S. aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during these missions.”
The U.S. refused to comply and went on with air missions already planned. The Russians went on with their mission, too. Now, two superpowers are flying sorties over the same country at the same time. The escalating danger is obvious.
Russia claims to be in Syria to help defeat ISIS, but their real purpose is to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and further ingratiate themselves with Assad’s powerful ally in the region — Iran. Wednesday’s air strikes prove it. They attacked an area north of the city of Homs in Western Syria. ISIS is generally located in the northern and eastern part of Syria.
CNN’s Elise Labott reports that “a senior U.S. administration official” told her Wednesday’s air strike “has no strategic purpose” in regard to ISIS.
However, it does have strategic purpose in terms of helping Assad. The Los Angeles Times reports, “While Russia announced that the raids targeted Islamic State, the area reportedly hit is a stronghold of other rebel groups, including some affiliated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army.” In other words, the raids have nothing to do with ISIS, but everything to do with battling the Free Syrian Army and others threatening Assad.
According to CNN, the senior administration official speaking to them “said the U.S. had no intention of preventing the strikes.”
President Obama met face-to-face with Putin the day before the attacks. Did he at least warn Putin not to hit “the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army”? If so, Putin must have absolutely no concerns about Obama following through.
When Fox News broke the story that Russia was asking the U.S. to keep its planes out of Syria during their operation, it added this telling line. “The Russian demand also mirrors one made by Turkey this past July, when Ankara asked U.S. planes to fly only in airspace south of Mosul, Iraq. In that case, 24 Turkish jets bombed Kurdish positions, catching the U.S. off guard.”
Turkey’s assault on the Kurds may have caught the U.S. off guard (though it shouldn’t have), but Russia’s action in Syria surely did not. It has been obvious since the beginning of their arms buildup in Syria that the Russians were gearing up for something more than a campaign against ISIS.
NATO’s top General, Philip Breedlove, told the press what can be seen at Russian installations in Syria. “We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into those airfields. We see some very sophisticated air-to-air aircraft [fighters] going into these airfields. I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA-15s or SA-22s [Russian missiles]. I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require sophisticated air-to-air capabilities. I’m looking at the capabilities and the capacities that are being created and I determine from that what might be their intent. These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL. They’re about something else.”
On CNN, Christiane Amanpour played a clip of the general making those remarks, then said, “That could not be clearer. What Russia is doing is not going after ISIS. Russia is going in to prop up Assad.”
While her conclusion is accurate, she’s missing something crucial. The general said, “These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL. They’re about something else.”
What else could those air defense capabilities be for? They have guns aimed at the sky even though ISIS has no presence in the sky. They have fighter aircraft ready, not to bomb ISIS, but to attack other aircraft. Yet ISIS has no air force.
There is a sixty nation coalition supposedly fighting ISIS under the leadership of the United States. But the Russians did not warn other members of the coalition about the attacks. For instance, France recently started flying sorties in Syria, but got no warning.
Russia specifically warned two nations — the United States and Israel. That’s who they’re thinking about. Those are the nations that rule the skies in that region. With their action Wednesday, Russia announced to those two powers that there’s a new kid on the block… and he’s a bit of a bully.
Meanwhile, ties between key members of the Ezekiel 38 coalition keep growing stronger, and commitments deeper.