Iran Is Going To Strike Israel The Only Question Is How And When

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

Will Iran attack Israel over the Syrian conflict? It’s only a matter of time

Dror Michman and Yael Mizrahi-Arnaud

As the dust settles following last weekend’s U.S.-French-British attack on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, the countdown to the next round of military conflict between Israel and Iran has begun. Last week, Israel once again targeted the T-4 (Tiyas) base in Syria, which houses Iranian drone forces, killing 7 Iranians and apparently destroying a drone infrastructure project. This is the same base from which an Iranian drone was launched in February, which the Israeli air force intercepted. Israel then hit the T-4 base and an Israeli aircraft downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Authors

An Iranian retaliatory strike against Israel is likely in the works. Where and how Tehran chooses to carry out its attack is still unclear, but for reasons that we describe below, it is most likely to be a rocket or missile attack launched from Syria. The choice will define what to expect for the future of Iranian and Israeli confrontations.

THE “WHY” QUESTION

There are very clear signals that this time Iran would indeed retaliate. Iranian media gave extensive coverage to the Israeli attack on T-4 last week. Iranian leaders, most noticeably Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, issued direct threats of retaliation. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, also warned Israel that this time there would be a steep price to pay; the highly publicized funerals of Quds forces personnel was the latest such indication. Iran is now both deeply and publicly committed to retaliate. The stage is set.

Iran is determined to cash in on its huge investment in Syria, by improving its military presence and the means with which to pressure Israel. Ultimately, its aim is to firmly establish itself as a regional power. Meanwhile, Israel is determined not to repeat the mistake it made in Lebanon—watching from the sidelines as the Iranian threat from Hezbollah intensified. Israel has made clear its intention to combat the threat from the start, while it remains manageable.

In Israel’s view, the time to act is ripe due to both geopolitical and strategic factors. First, Russia’s desire to keep the situation in Syria relatively stable puts Israel in the unique position of acting as a potential disrupter. Israel thus has leverage over the larger, and more powerful Russian state. Second, Israel’s freedom to operate in Syria’s skies may be limited in the future by improved Iranian or Syrian anti-aircraft capabilities, or by an international accord.

THE “HOW” QUESTION

While the intentions are clear, there remains considerable debate over what form the retaliation would take. In the Middle East, these nuances matter. There are several possibilities and each carries a different prospect for an Israeli counter-response.

A missile salvo appears to be the most appropriate Iranian response, both in terms of capabilities and risk calculation (and mirroring the Israeli missiles launched at T-4). However, the more crucial question is what target they will choose.

A military target appears to be the more appropriate response. A quid-pro-quo attack, aiming to deal a lethal blow to the Israel Defense Force’s reputation—or even better, the Israeli air force, since an F-16 fighter-jet (an emblem of Israel’s prowess), was downed in February. But a more effective deterrent may lie in targeting a big city—thereby eliciting a panic effect, even if it is intercepted by Israeli defense systems. The goal from the Iranian perspective may be to create public pressure that in turn would work to alter Israel’s risk calculation in Syria. On the down side, civilian centers are a less legitimate target, and might put Iran in an uncomfortable position internationally, when such a spotlight is the last thing Iran needs as worldwide concern over Iran’s intervention in the region crescendos.

The second dilemma facing the Iranians is from where to launch the missiles, the options being Iran, Syria, or Lebanon.

Launching from Iran will naturally send a strong message to Israel, both in terms of capabilities and determination. The clear disadvantage of this choice would be the legitimization of an Israeli counter-response in Iran, and yet another unnecessary escalation, for the time being, from the Iranian perspective.

Lebanon is well equipped with a variety of missiles, in both range and size, and therefore a convenient location for the Iranians. However, an escalation in Lebanon is far more damaging for all parties involved. It has the possibility to ignite a war between Israel and Hezbollah, and to harm crucial Hezbollah arsenals and infrastructure, serving neither Iranian nor Hezbollah’s interests.

Hezbollah is not interested in war at the moment, as its leaders are preoccupied with solidifying its image as the “protector” ahead of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in May. The numerous casualties in Syria, and the fact the group still has close to 7,000 troops on the ground there, complicate this picture.

The most sensible option remains Syria, the arena with the least risk for the Iranians, and the relevant stage of the recent skirmishes. Yet, there are two main challenges that remain to be mitigated: the delicate relationship with the Russians and the risk of further damaging Iranians assets and capabilities in Syria, in case Israel will be forced to respond.

In order to avoid putting stress on the Russians, the Iranians would retaliate in a fashion the Russians would find tolerable and containable. Russia expressed its anger after the last Israeli attack, and therefore will most likely tolerate some sort of measured Iranian response. The question is: What does Russia consider measured? Possibly anything that doesn’t pose a substantial threat to stability in Syria and wouldn’t provoke an Israeli escalated response.

This appears to be an impossible equation to solve. Iran wants to buttress its deterrence capability after Israel proved willing to pay a steep price in order to prevent Iran from establishing another front in Syria (from where they could threaten Israeli security, as they have done in Lebanon with Hezbollah in the past).

After outlining the possible scenarios, an Iranian strike will most likely be a missile strike from Syria, aimed at a significant Israeli military target. In order to hit the target, it will have to be substantial in size. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the target is hit and Israel’s response will be contained, unless the damage—both in lives and in capabilities—is negligible.

Israel understands that it can’t afford to blink.

Predicting the long-term prospects and evolution of this conflict is more difficult, since both parties are willing to pay a high price for their strategic interests.

An Israeli response to an Iranian retaliation depends on the extent of the damage; nonetheless, Israel understands that it can’t afford to blink. The determination and willingness to take risks has been clearly demonstrated—both by statements by senior officials and by attacks in recent months. For the time being, Israel will push back against Iran, at any cost, until either significant international pressure or diplomatic efforts work to inhibit Iranian strength in Syria. The Russians serve as a partial restrainer, but have limited motivation, and even more limited capabilities to actually enforce a solution on either party. Even if there were a simple solution, in light of Israeli and Iranian determination to inflict damage on each other, even at a high cost, Russian efforts would most likely prove unsuccessful.

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

 

The folks that read my articles know, I am not a fan of President Trump. Personally I believe that he is the biggest scumbag to set in Our Oval Office since Andrew Jackson, Our Nations 7th President back in the first half of the 1800’s. To me this is saying a lot since in my own lifetime we have had some very despicable men for Presidents, the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and the two Bush’s. Yet this clueless ego maniac we have now is such an idiot and habitual liar that he is a total disgrace to Our Country. Yet, even the most ignorant person in the world can upon a rare occasion get something right and I believe that he is correct concerning the U.S. getting our military out of Syria.

 

By what all the Generals had been saying up until this past week, ISIS has been at least 90% destroyed in Syria and ISIS is supposed to be the only reason that we went into Syria in the first place. Technically when a Nation sends their military into another country without the permission of the government of that country you have committed an act of war against that country. Yet even though the government of Syria has not declared an act of war against the United States for our actions in their country they have told us very plainly that we are not welcome there and that they want us out. Syria is and has been quite the ‘dance floor’ ever since the U.S. sent in troops and started bombings there. Syria’s government with the help of their allies Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah from Lebanon have won this Civil War there. Even though we may not like it President Assad is going to stay in power there and we have no right to be there. The only real allies that the United States has had there has been the Kurdish people whom we have used and betrayed over and over again. We have spent a lot of effort to not get into a direct fighting war with Syria or any of her allies and it is now past time to get our military out of Syria before we do get into a shooting war with Russia or Iran, or even with our supposed NATO ally Turkey. Honestly one has to wonder if a lot of the top military brass at the Pentagon as well as our Security Agencies like the CIA and the NSA are wanting a shooting war with these countries. Besides, you know that the Military Contractors that build the War Machines would love it, more billions of dollars for their bank accounts. Quite honestly, wars help a nation’s economy, it keeps people employed and off of the unemployment lines.

 

So, I believe that in this case President Trump is correct about getting our military out of Syria. We, our government, has committed an act of war against the nation of Syria simply by being there unasked and unwanted. We, the people of the United States are very fortunate that the government of Syria and all of her allies have not declared war on us yet. Though, if we continue to stay there this is going to happen, there is no way that it can be avoided. One of the issues that has irked me since George W was our President is the fact that Our Nations National Guard and even members of Our Coast Guard are off fighting in these foreign wars, this should never ever have happened. Right now on our southern border with the Nation of Mexico President Trump is talking about sending Our Military to the Border to ‘defend’ it from civilians crossing into Our Country. I have a couple of thoughts on this for you to consider. One, if the President is going to do this, it should be National Guard Units going there, not our regular military. Two, tell me, once we put thousands of Military Personnel on the Border, what are they going to do? Are they going to start shooting all of these unarmed men, women and children? I can’t tell you that I know the answer to every thing, I wish I could, but I can’t. This article is like most that I write, I am just trying to get you to think about the issue that I have brought up for your consideration. Thank you for your time folks, I appreciate you stopping in.

Islam And Dictators

Islam And Dictators

As most people know the world experienced an event called “The Arab Spring” just a few years ago. The event started when a man through exasperation of the inequalities that were laid upon his life decided to end his life by setting himself on fire. This tragic event started an uprising of the people who spread across North Africa and the Middle East. The people of these countries raised up together to challenge their countries leaders in unprecedented numbers. The results of these uprisings do vary but it would be lying to say that these countries and their people are now living in peace.

The United States government has been involved in this region of the world since before I was born (I am 61). Their adventures attributes or lack there of can easily be argued long and loud from the Arab people’s point of view, their governments point of view, and the American people’s points of view. Many Americans are sick and tired of our country being the “world’s policeman” but just as cops on the street can be good and/or evil our country has often lacked moral ethics in how they performed their activities. But just as different Arab countries leaders and their people like and dislike things our government has done that has touched their lives, I would just like to share with you that just as you and your countries government’s do not always see eye to eye with each other, that the American people do not always back what our government in doing in regards to events that affect you and your lives.

Most of the American people I believe before 1972-73 knew little about anything that was to do with your countries. I was a teenager during that time and I was in the American military (1977) before I ever heard of the Shah of Iran, I am not sure that I had ever heard of the country of Iran before the events of his departure from your country. The more that I paid attention to the events concerning the Shah and our countries involvement the more it sickened me about things our country had done to the people of Iran. As just about anyone and everyone should know by now the American government was playing a deadly game with Russia during those “cold war” years. Both countries governments used other countries like pawns in a chess game not caring about the collateral damage their actions were putting upon the people of these countries.

The American government installed and supported many evil people, even crazy people (Saddam), giving them many weapons which the tyrants used against their own people. I am going to step back to Iran in the 1978 era when the people of Iran was able to get rid of one Tyrant to unfortunately have an even more evil person step into the leadership of their country. I know that statement will get some people mad but to be honest about things, here in America we have had many evil people in all different levels and departments of our government including some very evil Presidents. The Shah was a very evil person but after his departure, you the people, got locked into a government that is one of the most evil the world has ever known.

Libya, as most everyone knows is one of the countries that had a horrible lunatic for a leader who you the people, with some outside help from Jihad organizations was able to overthrow. But you the people have now got a living situation that is very dangerous for all of it’s citizens with so many armed groups fighting for more control. I am glad that this was one leader that wasn’t one of the CIA puppets because he was a horrible non-humanitarian leader. Our government propped up dictators from the Philippines to Central America to Africa to the Middle East. It Saddens me as an American and as a loving heart Christian that our government did some of the things to you that they did but it is not like we the people of America condoned our governments actions.

Syria, their President is the only leader that it seems is going to remain in office but only because he was able to get foreign help from nations like Russia and Iran and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. The cost of this failed Civil War is hundreds of thousands of people are dead with probably that many and more wounded. There is also the factor of how to go forward as a nation. There is many trillions of dollars of damage to businesses and homes and the factor of the human cost of getting that country back to a functional condition is going to take several decades.

The United States as you know involved themselves militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9-11-2001 attacks here in America. I believe that going into Afghanistan was a legitimate action. But when our government went into Iraq in March of 2003 to get Saddam this was an unconstitutional act, thus and illegal action by our President. I try to always be honest and fair in all that I do and say, but in doing this it seems like I get most everyone mad at me. Thus saying, I personally believe that our President at the time, George W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are all three guilty of War Crimes and should all three be behind bars right now. Now, if you fast forward to today, look at all the sectarian violence in Iraq and in Afghanistan with the government trying to get the Taliban murderers to become part of that government. Besides cutting off the figurehead of Al-Qaeda on May 2nd of 2011 what did all the blood and all the billions of dollars accomplish for the lives of their average countryman?

Egypt is the last country that I am going to focus on tonight because I am not trying to create a manuscript out of this post. The people of Egypt throughout history for the most part are now and have always been a great people even though they have had many Rulers who used and abused them. Ever since your President Anwar Sadat was murdered by Islamist traders, you the people had been saddled with a Dictator/President who you finally overthrew about five years ago. When you, the people of Egypt were doing your rallies there in the Square in Cairo the Western media kept interviewing protesters from the square pointing out to us viewers how it was the educated class of people who were the protesters. They would often say how the side streets and alleys were jammed with people but these reporters did not go into those side streets and alleys because of security issues. I knew even then that the Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood were more than happy to let the School Teachers, Doctors, and Lawyer types be the one’s speaking to the foreign press while they waited in the back streets hoping that the President would be run out of office. When President Mubarak was removed by the Military and elections were set in place I had no doubt who would win and then the people of Egypt who voted in The Brotherhood would see first hand how they now had another tyrant leading their country. To the praise of the majority of the people the people realized how badly they had been lied to and how inept these Islamist leaders were and once again with the help of your Military you brought down yet another Dictator.

There is a common thread that runs throughout the Muslim part of the world and that of course is the Islamic faith. I know that it sounds horrible but the pattern of governments that have come and gone and come again to your countries has been where a Military backed Dictator has ruled your country or you had a Religious Leader rule your country. The debate for your people has been a case of which one is going to be the most cruel toward the population. It has seemed that your only alternatives where the lazy, uneducated, hate-filled Islamist fundamentalists who allow the population no basic human rights or freedom of expression, or when a Military backed Dictator has been your countries ruler who has no choice but to clamp down on the Islamist groups. These actions unfortunately cause the collateral damage of taking away many of the general populations basic rights also.

It is and has been my belief for a long time now that the only way that the people have freedom in their country is if they remove the tyrant themselves. How Egypt has gotten rid of their last two Presidents has worked but it always comes down to where the loyalty of the nation’s Military is. Muslim countries who prefer to have a so-called Religious Leader as their ruler it is up to you to see that He or She is acting toward the populous with caring and love for the people. Proof that these so-called “Clerics” like the real rulers of Iran, have enslaved the people by their hatred against everyone they themselves do not consider to be “holy” enough. This has been proven to the people of Islamic countries time and time again, it seems that either way the people have no freedom or freedom of speech under penalty of death. The people of your countries are to this day wrapped up in constant violence and almost all of this violence is directly to do with the Islamic Faith in how people choose to interpret your Holy Books words. Personally, I believe that God can choose to kill or let live whomever He chooses and that He does not need anyone’s help to kill or harm anyone. If God wants you or I dead, if He really is God, He can just speak it or wish it so and it will be so. Anyone who uses a Religion to kill or harm another person is themselves a Servant of Satan. If you really believe that the One you call God says for you to do these things, you very much need to examine who/what it is that you are worshiping because it sure isn’t a God. God is peace and love, not hate and killing. I from the depths of my heart wish for peace prosperity and love to each and every one of you. I do pray for you everyday because there is so much hate and violence that surrounds you and your families daily, shalom.

Syrian Aid: What The U.N. And the U.S. Should Have Been Doing All Along

Syrian Aid

(10-01-13)   (02-19-18)

What the U.N. And The U.S. Should Have Been Doing All Along

As most people in the world who have radio’s or television reception knows, there is a very bloody civil war going on in the country of Syria for about two and a half years now. The United Nations tells us that during this war about 100,000 civilians have been killed with at least one million people displaced. Displaced in this case means that these people have been not only uprooted from their homes, these are people who have left the borders of their country hoping for safety in one of their neighboring countries. Wars are never a pretty thing for a land of for the people of the land to have to endure, but, unfortunately sometimes people are forced to defend themselves. Picking up arms toward another person is always a personal demon that each person has to face within their own soul.

 

In Syria the city of Aleppo was the industrial hub of the country as well as the countries largest city. I have seen online many pictures of this city as it looks today. This city is one that has been one of the major battlegrounds of the fighting between the Presidents military forces and the people trying to defeat him. This city is now in horrible physical condition from large bombing campaigns just like many smaller cities and towns across their country. If you get a chance Google stories and pictures of what is happening in Syria. Like in most any military conflict the loss of physical and human destruction is heart wrenching. When you are looking at pictures of all of these bombed out businesses and homes I have a question for you that I want you to think about. I will use Aleppo as my example for my question. Looking at the destruction how is it possible for the people of the country to produce anything with so much danger constantly all around them?

 

Let each of us try to put ourselves into the story-line which is the Syria of today. When war is going on around you, even if you consider yourself and your family as non-combatant, what quality of life do you think you are capable of having? Do you think life as you have known it will not change just because you tell all warring sides that you are neutral? Even if you are lucky enough not to have had your place of employment bombed yet, nor had combatants come to your place of employment and kill everyone, do you think you are going to feel safe going into work each day? Do you think that your coworkers are going to take the chance of putting themselves into a crowded situation which makes them a bigger body count for the combatants? When almost all if not all commerce production is stopped because of a war, there is no GDP for the country which in this case is hurting the government side in this conflict. But, if the people have no jobs to go to, thus having no income, plus the fact that there aren’t any needed daily goods in which to buy, the populous itself is now drawn into the reality of this war even if they completely don’t want to be. I am not just speaking of items that are non essentials like wallpaper and couches. With the situation the Syrian people are in, they can’t even get enough food to keep from starving. No one in this war zone can possibly lay their head down for a nap without fear they may be attacked at any moment. That is if they are lucky enough to have a roof over their head in some place that has not been boomed out yet. Please also consider that the people of Syria are now facing their third winter in this civil war with all their basic needs absent.

 

What I have described above is background information for those who have paid no attention to the events unfolding in Syria and their region of the world. Once again an Islamic country in the Mediterranean region is in flux. The American government usually is put into a position where many expect us to be the world’s policeman. As most of you know the government of Syria is being backed by Russia who is their biggest most powerful ally and they have a major naval base in Syria. Russia has blocked most western attempts to help those fighting against the Syrian President Mr. Al-Assad. The second biggest Syrian ally is Iran who has been helping backup the Syrian military by sending thousands of trained fighters from the Islamic militant group Hezbollah which Iran protects and trains within their own borders and within the nation of Lebanon.

 

Syria’s president and his family are believers in a sect of Shia Islam  known as Alawites but the majority of the Syrian people are also faithful to the Shia sect of Islam. This is why Iran is helping president Al-Assad, you see, Iran is the largest Shia based country in the world and in Islam the Sunni-Shia differences are massive, violence between these two sects have been simmering, sometimes boiling over into violent conflicts for about 1,400 years now. This is why Iran is helping the government forces and this religious divide is why majority Sunni countries like Saudi-Arabia are helping out the rebel forces that are fighting president Al-Assad’s forces. Russia’s backing of the Syrian government has nothing to do with religion though, their reasons are simply economic and military alliances.

 

Here in America our politicians have been debating about whether or not to send military help to the Syrian rebels. Lately discussions have been about such things as bombing certain government locations and/or putting a no fly zone in parts of the country to help the rebel groups. Part of the problems with the rebel groups is that it is very fractious with several main bodies and no real central command. There are many confirmed reports that many of the people fighting against the government are from very dangerous Sunni Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda which are groups of the same philosophy  that attacked America on 9-11-2001. So the question comes to light, do we, meaning the U.S. and the west European countries give weapons and training to groups that once that war is over would then use those same weapons against us?

 

Now, I will express to you what I totally believe that the U.S. and the west European powers as well as the U.N. should have been doing since shortly after this civil war broke out. First, militarily we should be completely hands off. What we as a Christian nation and people, as well as the governing body of the U.N. should have been doing to help the innocent Syrian people who have been trying to flee their country via  going to their neighboring countries trying to stay alive, is that we should have been helping these people from the beginning of this human disaster.

 

Syria’s neighbors badly need help from the outside world in the facilitation of a million plus people into their countries. What we need to be doing and should have been doing is to send these desolate human beings, our brothers and sisters of humanity, the basic staples they need for survival. What aid we should be offering and delivering is things like food, tents, clothes, and blankets, not weapons. The only time we should use any military force in this civil war would be if the Syrian government force attack these refugee camps and then only if the presiding country whose borders were breached asks for us to help.

Israel-Iran Fight Steps Into The Open

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

No longer shrouded by ‘foreign reports,’ Israel-Iran fight steps into the open

Long-heard warnings of war between Jerusalem and Tehran are poised to become reality – unless someone can stop it

Judah Ari Gross

Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

On Thursday, the International Crisis Group think tank and advocacy firm warned in a new comprehensive report that Israel and Iran (plus its proxies) were barreling toward open conflict in Syria.

Those prescient warnings came true — in part, at least — throughout Saturday morning, beginning shortly before 4:30 a.m., with the violation of Israeli airspace by a drone that the Israeli military says was piloted by an Iranian operator from an airfield that Tehran had taken control of months before, with Syrian permission.

Israeli jets conducted reprisal raids in Syria, during which one of the F-16 fighter planes was apparently hit by shrapnel from an exploding anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, in what appears to be the first downing of an Israeli plane since 1982.

The aircraft’s pilots bailed out; one of them was seriously injured.

A picture taken in the northern Israeli Jezreel Valley on February 10, 2018, shows the remains of an Israel F-16 that crashed after coming under fire by Syrian air defenses during attacks against ‘Iranian targets’ in the war-torn country. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

Air force jets then completed a second set of retaliatory strikes. In the two rounds, the Israeli military said, its aircraft targeted several Syrian air defense systems as well as four Iranian positions in the country.

This was the first time Israel publicly acknowledged conducting airstrikes against Iranian-held locations in Syria, though not the first time it had done so, according to foreign reports.

In the aftermath of the Saturday morning clash, Israeli, Syrian and Iranian politicians released tough, threatening statements aimed at one another. The United States backed Israel’s right to self-defense. Russia called for calm on all sides, but singled out Israel for violating Syrian sovereignty with its strikes, while conspicuously ignoring the Iranian drone’s airspace violation.

The aerial exchange thrust what had previously been a long-simmering but largely quiet conflict into the international spotlight and raised concerns that this bout will be the first of many clashes — and, in the nightmare scenario, the start of a full-fledged war across Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel.

I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses

However, the prevailing belief among Israeli defense analysts is that Saturday’s events were not the prelude to open war, but the beginning of an extended period of increased tension, which is liable to see additional clashes.

“I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses,” Sima Shine, a career defense official and current senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank, told reporters on Sunday.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) attends a briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) in response to the escalation of tensions along the northern border on February 10, 2018. (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

She added, during the phone briefing organized by the Media Central group, that escalation is in neither side’s best interest.

Amos Yadlin, a former fighter pilot and Military Intelligence chief, described Saturday as the “most significant day of fighting” in what Israel describes as its “campaign between wars,” often referred to in Hebrew by its acronym, Mabam.

“Despite the containment of the incident, the campaign is expected to continue,” Yadlin said.

In its report, released two days before Saturday’s flareup, the Crisis Group laid out how this campaign between Israel and the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis has developed and how it can be prevented from escalating further.

The organization tracks the current tensions to the Syrian regime’s battlefield victories over the past two and a half years, which it has achieved in large part due to support from the Russian military, which has provided significant air power since September 2015.

These have opened the Iran-led axis to shift toward preparing for a future conflict with Israel.

Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the deescalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation

According to the think tank, Russia is also the only entity able to prevent such a bloody war, having emerged from the Syrian civil war as the region’s sole remaining superpower after the United States dramatically scaled back its involvement in the conflict.

“Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the deescalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation,” according to the report.

In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The group outlines three main issues that need to be addressed: the presence of Iranian and Shiite forces near the Israeli Golan Heights; the construction of Iranian military infrastructure in Syria; and ensuring any clashes that do take place remain confined to Syria.

The Crisis Group has also been working directly with Russia to try to persuade it to accept the role of mediator between Israel, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

“And we are seeing some traction with Russian officials,” Ofer Zalzberg, a senior Jerusalem-based analyst for the group and one of the report’s authors, told The Times of Israel last Wednesday ahead of the document’s publication.

The recipe for disaster

As Syrian dictator Bashar Assad vanquishes the remaining pockets of resistance in the country, the Israeli concern is that his allies — Iran, Hezbollah and Iran-backed Shiite militias — will be freed to focus on establishing positions along the Israeli border from which to antagonize the Jewish state, as well as permanent naval and air bases to bring in more advanced weaponry and conduct attacks.

Israel has designated these issues to be “red lines,” which it will not allow to be violated, and has said it will take military action if they are.

In its report, the Crisis Group warned that if the Iranian axis presses on with these efforts and Israel retaliates in kind, there is significant potential for escalation or even a large-scale war that could destabilize the entire region.

Israeli security forces inspect damage to a house after a Katyusha rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, July 15, 2006. (Pierre Terdjman / Flash90)

The military assessments of what a war between Israel and Hezbollah would look like are chilling: Hezbollah launching over 1,000 rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and strategic sites each day, along with attempted infiltrations of Israeli communities along the Lebanese border. Israel conducting wave after wave of airstrikes against Hezbollah infrastructure, which the terrorist group has embedded deep inside civilian areas, ensuring significant noncombatant deaths, as well as large-scale IDF ground force maneuvers in southern Lebanon.

Zalzberg said a major part of the problem is that there are no established “rules of the game” between Israel and Iranian proxies in Syria, as there are in Lebanon, where Israel has been fighting Hezbollah off-and-on for decades.

That means the “rules” will be sorted out through back-and-forth, tit-for-tat clashes like Saturday’s. But this is a perilous path, fraught with opportunities for miscalculation and resulting in unintended casualties on both sides.

For instance, Israeli officials often refer to the “proverbial kindergarten” — the type of target that if hit, even accidentally, would prompt Israeli citizens to demand harsh and swift reprisals. As Iran and Hezbollah lack civilian targets in Syria, their equivalent might be a case of significant casualties from an Israeli airstrike, which would forced them to retaliate.

This is a current concern, following Saturday’s exchange, as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group, reported that at least six pro-regime fighters — including both Syrians and foreign nationals — were killed in Israel’s strikes and that “the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation.”

Zalzberg added the potential for escalation in Syria is driven higher by the fact that different sides do not have a clear grasp of one another’s goals and viewpoints, citing a year’s worth of interviews by the Crisis Group with officials in Jerusalem, Tehran, Beirut, Amman, Moscow and Washington.

The report and its authors argue that it is ultimately in Russia’s best interest to avoid an all-out war between Israel and the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Hezbollah, which would have the potential to completely destabilize the region.

Unlike in the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah when the fighting was primarily limited to northern Israel and southern Lebanon, the view of both Israeli and Hezbollah officials is that the next conflict between the two groups would also include fighting in Syria.

Israeli artillery howitzers fire on Hezbollah targets at the Israeli-Lebanese border on July 18, 2006. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“A massive campaign by Israel will do enormous damage to [Damascus and its backers’] achievements, perhaps even destabilizing the regime itself,” the report noted.

According to Zalzberg, this is not a desirable situation for Russia, as Moscow would like to see Assad regain near-total control over Syria.

The analyst noted that this is at odds with Iran, which wants to see Assad in power, but does not necessarily want to see him becoming too powerful, preferring instead to have Syria controlled by a coalition, similar to Lebanon, so that its Shiite militias could play a more significant role in the country.

Russia and only Russia

Moscow’s active support for Assad and his other main supporters, Iran and Hezbollah, has left Israeli officials decidedly wary of their Russian counterparts.

The Crisis Group report quotes an unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying of the Russians, “It’s hard to trust them. They tell us they are not selling weapons to Hezbollah, but we know for a fact that they do. Their policies are cynical. They are not an enticing mediator.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an event marking International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Vasily MAXIMOV/AFP)

Yet there is an understanding among some in Israel that, while not enticing, Russia is the only mediator that has significant leverage over Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel has already had to maintain a close, if uneasy, relationship with Moscow due to its involvement in the region.

After Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jets that had invaded its airspace, Moscow installed an S-400 missile defense system in Syria. With the system, one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft batteries, Russia can monitor the overwhelming majority of Israel’s active airspace, including Israeli military flights.

Or, as one Israeli official told the Crisis Group, “A fly can’t buzz above Syria without Russian consent nowadays.”

This came as a shocking blow to the Israeli Air Force, which had, until then, enjoyed aerial superiority in the region, and required Jerusalem and Moscow to set up a hotline to prevent any potential conflicts between the two militaries.

Israel has also worked diplomatically with Russia to secure a buffer zone around the southwestern Syrian border, in which Hezbollah and other Iran-backed Shiite militias would not be allowed to maintain a presence.

In this photo released on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces stand next to a bus which is waiting to evacuate Syrian rebels and their families from Beit Jinn village, in the southern province of Daraa, Syria. (SANA via AP)

The border area has naturally been of significant concern for Israel, which is loath to see Hezbollah set up military positions along the Golan Heights to join the significant infrastructure it has already put in place in southern Lebanon.

Last month, the Syrian military, with some assistance from Shiite militias, regained control over the area of Beit Jinn, or Beit Jann, which is located just 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Israel’s Mount Hermon ski resort.

Though it is currently focused on retaking the area of Idlib in northwestern Syria, this coalition is likely to soon focus its attention on the Quneitra and Daraa regions, near the Israeli border.

Though Israel secured its buffer zone for that area this summer, the Crisis Group report notes that it would be relatively easy for these groups to get around the restriction, “for instance by integrating the fighters into the Syrian army or simply having them don its uniforms.”

The advocacy group argues that before the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis moves toward the southwest, Russia should work to negotiate an agreement between it and Israel.

There is still time for Russia to try to broker a set of understandings to prevent a confrontation, protecting both its investment in the regime and Syrian, Israeli and Lebanese lives

The Crisis Group notes that Israel’s insistence that Iranian and Iran-backed troops stay out of southern Syria will be the most difficult to negotiate, as Hezbollah and the Shiite militias would not be inclined to accept it and could easily cheat by disguising themselves as Syrians.

However, the authors say this could be resolved by getting Russia to agree to prevent Iran from setting up the types of infrastructure most concerning to Israel, like a seaport through which the Islamic Republic could carry out attacks against Israeli natural gas fields, an airport to transport weapons to Hezbollah, or a factory for the production of precise missiles.

“There is still time for Russia to try to broker a set of understandings to prevent a confrontation, protecting both its investment in the regime and Syrian, Israeli and Lebanese lives,” the Crisis Group wrote.

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Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(The Devil is in Tehran, His name is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the un-elected Dictator who calls himself the ‘Supreme Leader’)(trs) 

Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates

Crash site of an Israeli F-16 jet in northern Israel. Photo: 10 February 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe Israeli F-16 jet crashed near a village in northern Israel

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed after being hit by Syrian air defences during an offensive in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.

The plane was hit during air strikes in response to an Iranian drone launch into Israeli territory, Israel says.

The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they hit aerial defence batteries and Iranian military sites in the latest strikes.

Israeli air strikes in Syria are not unusual, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman says, but the loss of an Israeli fighter jet marks a serious escalation.

In other developments in the Syrian conflict on Saturday:

  • A Turkish helicopter was shot down as the country continued its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. Two soldiers on board were killed, the Turkish military says
  • UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the past week was one of the bloodiest in Syria since the conflict began in 2011 – with at least 277 civilian deaths reported

How did events unfold on Saturday morning?

The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said.

It is the first time Israel has lost an aircraft in combat since 2006 when an Israeli helicopter was shot down over Lebanon by a Hezbollah rocket, the Jerusalem Post reports.

All five crew on board – including a female flight mechanic – were killed in that incident.

Anti-aircraft effects over the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights. Photo: 10 February 20218Image copyrightEPA
Image captionAnti-aircraft fire smoke over the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights

Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

An Israeli F-16 takes off. File photoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe fighter jet was carrying out strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, the Israelis say (file picture)

Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.

What did Israel do next?

Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.

“Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel,” the spokesman warned.

He added that Israel was willing to exact a heavy price in response but was “are not looking to escalate the situation”.

Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.

Russia expressed “serious concern” over the Israeli air strikes and called for all sides to show restraint.

What is the Iranian presence in Syria?

Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.

Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Presentational grey line

A powerful new element

Analysis by BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus

For years Israel has been striking at weapons stores and other facilities in Syria with a single goal – to disrupt and, as far as possible, to prevent advanced Iranian missiles being delivered to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Syria has often been the conduit for these shipments, but the changing balance of power there, with the Assad regime’s survival bolstered by Iranian help, has introduced a powerful new element – a direct Iranian role in the crisis.

A more confident Iran is alleged by Israel to be setting up bases in Syria(whether for its own or its proxy Shia Muslim militia forces is unclear).

But it is also alleged to be developing missile factories, both there and in Lebanon, to make the supply lines to Hezbollah less vulnerable.

Israel’s campaign to disrupt missile supplies is becoming ever more complex.

And Iran risks becoming a direct actor in this conflict, ever closer to Israel’s own borders.

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Presentational grey line

Russian delegation ‘sought to stop Israeli strikes in Syria, Lebanon’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russian delegation ‘sought to stop Israeli strikes in Syria, Lebanon’

Arabic daily says high-level team visiting from Moscow came to Jerusalem to discourage action against Iran and Hezbollah

Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, February 1, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, February 1, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

A delegation of senior Russian security officials visiting Israel this weekreportedly sought to dissuade Jerusalem from striking Iranian and Hezbollah weapons facilities in Syria and Lebanon.

According to the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat, quoted by Israel’s Channel 10 news, the purpose of Wednesday’s visit, headed by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, was Moscow’s desire to discourage Israeli intervention across the border, Channel 10 news reported.

The Russian delegation, which also included deputy ministers, army generals and intelligence officers, held talks with Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat as well as heads of Israel’s National Security Council and top military, defense and intelligence officials.

Patrushev himself met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has been negotiating with the United States and Russia, the main brokers in Syria, to keep Iran-backed Shiite militias and the Hezbollah terrorist group away from the border.

Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and others have all said that Israel’s policy is to target shipments of advanced weaponry, including accurate long-range missiles, that are heading to or in the possession of Hezbollah. Foreign media reports have attributed dozens of airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria to Israel.

Last week’s visit by the Russian officials came on the heels of Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Iranian military entrenchment in the region.

A satellite image showing the results of an alleged Israeli airstrike on a reported Iranian base being set up outside Damascus, from December 4, 2017. (ImageSat International ISI)

Netanyahu said his meeting with Putin focused on Iran, with the prime minister saying if Tehran continues to try and deepen its influence in Syria, Israel would work to “stop it.”

“The question is: Does Iran entrench itself in Syria, or will this process be stopped. If it doesn’t stop by itself, we will stop it,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a telephone briefing.

“We also spoke about Lebanon, which is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we will not accept this threat,” he added.

Netanyahu said that the weapons factories are currently “in the process of being built” by Iran. Israel is determined to do whatever is necessary to prevent those two developments, Netanyahu said.

Last month, Israel’s envoy to the United Nations said there are 3,000 soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps currently fighting in Syria, and accused Tehran of seeking to turn the country “into the largest military base in the world.”

Danny Danon told the Security Council that Iran controls 82,000 fighters in Syria, including 9,000 members of Hezbollah, 10,000 Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and another 60,000 Syrians.

Danon urged member states not to “allow Iran to continue funding worldwide terror, pursue its dangerous internal arms buildup, and grow its military presence abroad.”

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Israel has stopped hijacked planes crashing into European cities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu hints Israel has stopped hijacked planes crashing into European cities

PM tells NATO ambassadors that Israeli intel has thwarted ‘several dozen major terrorist attacks,’ some involving civil aviation

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference with NATO ambassadors to Israel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, January 9, 2018 (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference with NATO ambassadors to Israel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, January 9, 2018 (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday indicated that Israel has prevented hijacked airplanes from crashing into European cities.

“We have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries,” he told foreign diplomats in Jerusalem.

“Some of these could have been mass attacks, of the worst kind that you have experienced on the soil of Europe and even worse, because they involve civil aviation. Israel has prevented that, and thereby helped save many European lives,” Netanyahu said, apparently referring to plane hijackings.

He did not provide specific details about the attacks Israel helped prevent. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to elaborate.

At a meeting of Israel-based ambassadors to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Netanyahu said Jerusalem contributes to the security of every single member of the Western defense alliance, in that it fights both Sunni and Shiite strands of radical Islam.

Injured people are evacuated from the scene of a terrorist attack on a mosque in Bir al-Abd in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt on November 24, 2017. (AP Photo)

Besides fighting Islamic State terrorism aimed at European cities, Israel is also preventing the group from creating a second stronghold in Egypt, he said.

“ISIS is being destroyed in Iraq and Syria, but it is trying to establish an alternative territorial base in the Sinai. Israel is contributing to preventing that in myriad ways,” Netanyahu said. “In general, I would say that Israel is the most powerful indigenous force in the Middle East that fights radical Islam.”

Israel further helps NATO by fighting Iran, the dominant Shiite power, the prime minister went on. The Jewish state does not only seek to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is also “absolutely committed to preventing Iran from establishing a military base in Syria. And we back our words with action,” he added, likely hinting at various airstrikes on weapon convoys and factories allegedly carried out by Israel.

Furthermore, Iran plans to import 100,000 Shiite fighters to Syria as part of its quest to dominate and eventually “conquer” the Middle East, he charged.

Israeli satellite images show results of an airstrike attributed to the IDF on a Syrian military weapons development base on September 7, 2017. (ImageSat International)

If Tehran were successful in its efforts, radical Sunni and Shiite forces would clash in Syria, sending millions of refugees to European shores, the prime minister warned.

“Where will the spillover [of a Sunni-Shiite clash in Syria] happen? In Europe. Where will the human flow go? To Europe. Who’s preventing that right now? Israel? Right now, Israel alone. But I maintain that it’s a common interest that we have,” he told the NATO ambassadors during the public part of the event.

Israel and NATO have cooperated on security matters for decades but recently upgraded their ties significantly. Last year, Israel opened its first office at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that the Jewish state opposes the presence of Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, in southern Syria and Lebanon.

Israel has been negotiating with the United States and Russia, the main brokers in Syria, to keep Iran-backed Shiite militias and the Hezbollah terrorist group away from the border.

Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and others have all said that Israel’s policy is to target shipments of advanced weaponry, including accurate long-range missiles, that are heading to or in the possession of Hezbollah.

In late December, Assad’s troops, accompanied by Iranian-backed fighters, recaptured the Syrian Golan from rebels, allowing President Bashar Assad to reassert control over a small portion of the area adjacent to the Israeli border. Still, much of the area along the border, around the city of Quneitra, remains under rebel control.

Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the most serious immediate threat to Israel was posed by Hezbollah, followed by other jihadist groups supported by Tehran positioned on the Syrian border.

Describing Iran as a “multidimensional threat,” the army chief said the most worrying aspect is the Islamic Republic’s desire to obtain nuclear capabilities, followed by its efforts to achieve hegemony in the region.

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COMMENTS

Iran & Hezbollah Prove They Don’t Give A Damn About Lebanon’s Laws

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Investigates Visit of Iraqi Militia Leader to the South

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 – 10:30
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks after a cabinet meeting in Baabda near Beirut, Lebanon December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/ File Photo
Beirut- Caroline Akoum

The appearance of the head of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia during a visit to Lebanon’s border with Israel, accompanied by Hezbollah fighters, sparked a wave of anger, especially as it came shortly after the government announced the adoption of a policy to dissociate the country from external conflicts.

In a video released on Saturday, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iraqi paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, declared his readiness “to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause”, just four days after the Lebanese political parties announced the adoption of the policy of “dissociation” from external and regional conflicts.

The video showed an unidentified commander, presumably from Hezbollah, gesturing toward military outposts located along the borders, while Khazali was talking to another person through a wireless device, telling him: “ I am now with the brothers in Hezbollah in the area of Kfarkila, which is a few meters away from occupied Palestine; we declare the full readiness to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered the security apparatus to conduct the necessary investigations into the presence of the Iraqi leader on the Lebanese territories, which he said violated the Lebanese laws.

Presidential sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that President Michel Aoun has requested further information about the video, while military sources denied that Khazali has entered the Lebanese territories in a legitimate way.

“The entry of any foreigner to this border area requires a permit from the Lebanese Army, which did not happen,” the sources said, stressing that Khazali has entered the area illegaly.

A statement issued by the premier’s office said: “Hariri contacted the concerned military and security officials to conduct the necessary investigations and take measures to prevent any person or party from carrying out any military activity on the Lebanese territory, and to thwart any illegal act as shown in the video.”

The Lebanese prime minister also ordered that Qais Al-Khazali would be banned from entering Lebanon again, the statement added.

Israel targets Syrian military base

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel targets Syrian military base – Syrian state TV

A Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft defence system at the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionFile photo: A Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-air defence system in Syria, 2015

Israel launched surface-to-surface missiles at a military installation outside the Syrian capital Damascus overnight, Syrian state TV reports.

The attack caused damage but two missiles were intercepted, it added.

The Israeli military has not confirmed it carried out the strike.

UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier reported explosions near Damascus, which it said were caused by a suspected Israeli missile attack.

The extent of the damage is not yet clear although the TV report spoke of “material losses” at the base.

Head of the Syrian Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the AFP news agency the strike destroyed an arms depot – but his group did not know who it belonged to.

Israel has hit weapons sites before, in a bid to prevent arms being transferred to Syria’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Arms convoys in particular have been singled out by the Israeli air force.

According to the Syrian Observatory the attack took place near El-Kiswah, a few miles south of Damascus.

Last month the BBC revealed a claim that Iran was building a permanent military base near the town.

A series of satellite images showed construction at the location of the alleged base, which was made known to the BBC by a western intelligence source.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously warned that Israel would not allow Iran to establish any military presence in Syria.

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