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Israel and Syria

Israel has launched hundreds of attacks on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria over the past decade of Syria’s war, but its government rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. To that extent, this week’s admission marked a departure. Wednesday’s attack is an echo of the ferment in the Middle East, almost relentless.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Geopolitics has reached a direly frightful phase with Israel targeting the embattled Syrian capital of Damascus. With a Syrian soldier killed and five wounded, the Israeli army has acknowledged that it struck Syrian facilities early on Wednesday, targeting aircraft, including “radar and anti-aircraft batteries”.

According to the Syrian media, the surface-to surface missile attacks came from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights. A Syrian soldier has been killed and five wounded in an Israeli attack near the capital, Damascus, state media said. The Israeli military said it attacked targets in Syria in response to an anti-aircraft missile fired from that direction into northern Israel. The rocket exploded in the air and was not intercepted by Israeli air defences, but it activated warning sirens in Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian city in northern Israel, according to the military. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

“In response to the anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria earlier tonight, we just struck surface-toair missile targets in Syria, including radar and antiaircraft batteries,” the Israeli military said in a tweet. Israel has launched hundreds of attacks on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria over the past decade of Syria’s war, but its government rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. To that extent, this week’s admission marked a departure. Wednesday’s attack is an echo of the ferment in the Middle East, almost relentless.

Tel Aviv has said it is targeting bases of Iran-allied armed groups, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. On January 31 this year, Syrian air defences intercepted a barrage of Israeli missiles targeting the vicinity of the capital that resulted in material damage. Israel declined to comment on that reported attack.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks hit military outposts and a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah. Some missiles were brought down by Syrian air defences. While technically in a state of war since 1948 when both nations came into being, Israel claims to maintain a position of strict neutrality in the Syrian civil war.

The fact though is that the country has launched frequent attacks on what it considers Iranian assets, including those of the Hezbollah, seeing as it does an existential threat from Tehran. Indeed, it has been the constant thrust of Israeli diplomatic efforts to target Iran’s presence, directly and through proxies, in Syria, and this was a major reason for its opposition to the 2017 ceasefire agreement in southwest Syria brokered by the United States and Russia.