Syria has accused Israel of launching air raids on military positions near the capital Damascus, saying the attack showed its support for “terrorist organizations” operating in the area.
The raids early on Wednesday targeted military forces in Jamraya, 10km northwest of Damascus, the Syrian military said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
“This morning Israeli warplanes fired several missiles from Lebanese airspace on one of our military positions in the Damascus countryside,” it said. “Our air defense systems blocked them and destroyed most of them.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war through a network of activists on the ground, said 14 died, including Iranians and also three Syrian officers.
“Syria’s air defense system blocked some of the missiles, but others hit ammunition depots near Jamraya,” said SOHR chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
Syria’s foreign ministry accused Israel of supporting armed groups that have shelled Damascus for days with “rockets and mortar rounds”.
“The government of the Syrian Arab Republic reiterates its warning to Israel on the serious repercussions of its attacks on Syria, its continued support for armed terrorist organizations, and its continued occupation of the Arab territories,” the ministry said.
Israeli officials say this situation started because of Iran. “Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, Israel’s chief military spokesperson, said in a statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”
But Israel faults Syria too. “The Syrians are playing with fire that they are allowing the Iranians to attack Israel from their soil,” Conricus told the Washington Post. “The IDF is ready and capable to inflict a heavy price on anyone that attacks us.” Israel now says it has the drone and claims it is Iranian.
What makes this situation even scarier: Israel says it is “fully prepared for further action,” which means things could get worse.
Israel has launched around 100 strikes inside Syria over the past five years, according to Amir Eshel, a former chief of the Israeli Air Force. Usual targets include convoys of Syrian military or Hezbollah members.
Israel is particularly worried about Hezbollah because they have fought before. In 2006, the two battled in a month-long war where the militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel; in response, Israeli forces fired around 7,000 bombs and missiles into Lebanon.
Around 160 Israelis troops and civilians died, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and about 1,100 Lebanese, most of them civilians perished, per Human Rights Watch, a US-based advocacy organization. The organization also reports about 4,400 Lebanese were injured, and that around 1 million people were displaced.
Today, Israel believes Hezbollah has around 150,000 rockets at its disposal, although those weapons aren’t as advanced as the precision weapons made at the facility Israel struck in September 2017.
That said, what happened last September is nothing like Saturday’s events. This most recent flare-up could escalate simmering tensions between Israel, Syria, and Iran even further — something an already roiling Middle East can’t afford.
Image via Sohu