Monday, January 21, 2019

Daylight Strike In Syria: Dangerous Response

Daylight Strike in Syria; Dangerous Response

Sunday’s airstrike on targets in Syria, purportedly carried out by Israel, was unusual for a number of reasons. First, it occurred in broad daylight, as opposed to hundreds of other strikes in which the Israeli Air Force has preferred to use the cover of darkness.

That suggests that the target was likely an Iranian attempt to deploy highly advanced weapons, and that it appeared to have required an urgent response that could not wait for nightfall.

Whatever was hit by Israel in Syria may have belonged to a category known as “time-critical targets,” which means that they are visible one moment, and out-of-sight or out-of-strike access the next. That could mean that imminent plans were in place to move the target to a place where it would be harder to strike.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that Israeli F-16s fired missiles at a target south of Damascus’s international airport, and that Syrian air defenses intercepted seven Israeli missiles, using Russian-made Pantsir missiles.
The Bashar Assad regime, for its part, released face-saving rhetoric, claiming that its air defenses “thwarted Israeli aggression.” These claims are doubtful and seem to be aimed at avoiding embarrassment.
The other unusual and explosive aspect of this incident came in the form of the response from Syria. As Israeli skiers slid their way down the snow-capped Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, they suddenly saw twin smoke trails in the sky, created by two Iron Dome missile-defense interceptors rushing to protect Israeli airspace from a threat. The startled skiers raised their phones to capture an Iron Dome interception of a rocket attack on the Hermon.
It remains unclear whether the Syrian military fired that rocket or whether it was the Iranian Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guards, which has been seeking to establish a foothold in southern Syria. What is clear, however, is that this attempt to retaliate to the alleged Israeli airstrike represents a severe escalation that targeted an Israeli holiday site filled with vacationers. The successful Iron Dome interception may have prevented a disaster and averted a major conflict.

The alleged Israeli airstrike also represents the first under the newly appointed IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. As the former head of the IDF’s Northern Command and the ex-commander of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Kochavi has played a central role in Israel’s large-scale preventative campaign against Iran in Syria in recent years. And he looks set to continue with it as chief of staff.

Despite growing Russian pressure and the return of the Assad-run Syrian state following the end of the eight-year civil war, Israel’s “war between wars” against Iranian entrenchment shows no sign of stopping.
The last time that Israel was known to strike the Damascus airport was only eight days ago, when an explosion destroyed a warehouse apparently containing Iranian-produced Fajr-5 rockets, according to the Image Sat International company.

Russia has shown its displeasure over such strikes and has been trying to pressure Israel into rolling them back. According to one recent report that appeared in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, Moscow even told Jerusalem that attacks on the airport in Damascus must stop.
It remains unknown whether Russia is applying equally heavy pressure on Iran to scale back the very activities that attract Israel’s firepower in the first place.

In 2018 alone, the Israeli Air Force fired some 2,000 munitions at targets in Syria and effectively stopped Tehran from taking over the country.
The coming year will be a crucial junction in deciding whether this shadow war will continue, die down or erupt into the flames of a regional war.

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