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June 25, 2024

Israel escalates attacks on Iran-linked targets in Syria

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Jan 9, 2024

Israel has dramatically escalated its air campaign targeting Iran-linked military sites in Syria over the past few months, according to Syrian military officials and other sources. The stepped-up strikes come as Israel seeks to disrupt Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and prevent weapon transfers to Tehran’s allies.

Surge in strike frequency and lethality

Since October 2022, Israel has conducted an average of nearly 20 strikes per month on Iranian weapons convoys and military facilities in Syria – an increase of over 40% from the January-September 2022 monthly average of 14 strikes [1]. Alongside the uptick in frequency, the strikes have become more lethal and ambitious in their targeting. Whereas Israel previously focused strikes on weapons convoys, recent attacks have hit key military installations like Damascus International Airport and the coastal area of Tartus where Russia maintains a naval base [2].

Israeli missiles and drones are hitting deeper inside Syria with more advanced weaponry, resulting in significantly more casualties and damage per strike. Syrian air defenses have struggled to intercept the incoming missiles, with interception rates falling from around 60% to less than 20% over the past three months [3]. Meanwhile, Israeli jets are flying closer to Syrian territory, allowing for more precise targeting. The combined factors point to “a very methodic Israeli attempt to degrade key nodes of the Iranian force presence in Syria,” according to analyst Charles Lister.

Motivations behind the escalation

Experts cite several driving factors behind Israel’s push to hit Iran harder in Syria:

  • Iranian military entrenchment: Israel aims to set back Iran’s efforts to construct missile production and storage sites in Syria and embed its proxy militias like Hezbollah into the country’s armed forces. A senior Israeli military official stated that Israel is engaged in an “unprecedented wave” of strikes to disrupt the Iranian weapons supply chain stretching from Iran to Lebanon via Syria [4].

  • Security coordination lapses: Communication channels between Israel and Russia over Syria strikes have frayed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, giving Israel more leeway to intensify attacks. In the past, Israel avoided strikes on Assad regime bases hosting Russian forces, but several recent strikes have hit regime installations with presumed Russian presence.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s return: Israel ramped up strikes following the reelection of Netanyahu as Prime Minister in late 2022. Netanyahu has vowed to continue aggressively targeting any Iranian military advancement in Syria. Some experts believe Netanyahu may even escalate towards more direct strikes on Iranian soil.

  • Preemptive action: Israel could be acting preemptively before Iran potentially obtains a nuclear weapon, which could alter the regional balance of power and limit Israel’s strike capabilities against Iranian allies like Syria. Striking while Iran remains non-nuclear allows Israel to degrade the missile and drone factories that could one day arm a nuclear-backed Assad regime or Hezbollah.

Reactions and ramifications

The escalation of Israeli strikes has triggered harsh condemnations from Iran and Syria, but no significant retaliation yet.

Iran has issued threats of revenge, with a top Revolutionary Guard commander vowing to “raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground” if Israel continues to target Iranian interests in Syria [5]. However, experts believe Iran will avoid a direct confrontation with Israel for now, given domestic turmoil in Iran and Israel’s military supremacy. Iran is more likely to respond asymmetrically via cyberattacks or strikes by regional proxies.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Assad lodged complaints to the UN Security Council over the Israeli assaults on its sovereignty. But practically, Syria has limited recourse, as its outdated air defenses are no match for Israeli weaponry.

Looking ahead, analysts expect Israel to sustain, and possibly deepen, its air campaign targeting Iran in Syria throughout 2024. But this also raises the risks of inadvertent escalation and clashes with Iranian or Hezbollah elements. Any miscalculation that prompts Iran or its proxies to attack Israeli territory could unleash a regional war.

Timeline of major recent Israeli strikes on Syria

Date Target Deaths Notes
Jan 8, 2023 Damascus airport No reported casualties Struck ammunition depots, runway damaged
Jan 2, 2023 Weapons warehouses near Tartus naval base Up to 10 killed Russians reportedly given early warning
Dec 25, 2022 Military installation south of Damascus 15 Syrian/Iranian troops killed Among deadliest strikes of 2022
Dec 7, 2022 Iranian arms convoys from Iraq to Syria No reported casualties Convoy vehicles destroyed
Nov 22, 2022 Hezbollah convoy on Syria-Lebanon border Multiple killed Trucks carrying Iranian missile parts to Hezbollah hit

[6]
{{< figure src=”https://images.jpost.com/image/upload/q_auto/c_fill,g_faces:center,h_537,w_822/570979″ title=”A December 2022 strike targeting an Iranian weapons convoy on the Iraq-Syria border” >}}

Social media reaction

The escalation of Israeli strikes in Syria has sparked substantial discussion on social media platforms:

  • Analysts debate whether the strikes represent an “undeclared war” on Iran or are a justified defense against Iranian encroachment on Israel’s borders [7].
  • Images circulated online show the damage inflicted on Damascus International Airport’s runways and aircraft hangers [8].
  • Some accounts closely track and map each Israeli strike location in Syria [9].

In conclusion, Israel has dramatically expanded its campaign against Iranian military assets in Syria over the past three months. The strikes have become more frequent, wider in scope and more lethal. While Iran issues threats of retaliation, the risks of miscalculation and regional war are rising as Israel tests the limits of Iran’s presence in Syria. Bracing for Iranian retaliation, Israel appears ready to sustain an intense air assault to degrade Syria’s capacity to host Iran’s ambitions.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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