Only days after the inauguration of the new IDF Chief-of Staff Aviv Kochavi, the IAF launched unprecedented daylight air raids against Iranian military targets in Syria. In strikes near Damascus airport several ammunition/missile depots were destroyed with a reported toll of 14 dead. The trigger for this attack might have been the visit of a senior general from Iran. In retaliation, a Syrian missile was fired at the ski slopes of Mount Hermon, where there were ca. 1,000 vacationers. But, the missile was intercepted and destroyed by the Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Israel retaliated, but reported that the missile was fired from an area where it had been informed that there were no Iranian facilities. They did not name who had informed them of that, but presumably this was the Russians, who have been informed in advance by the IDF of every aerial attack, in order to avoid clashes with Russian planes. This has especially been true since a Russian air transport place was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire last month, that was intended to counter an Israeli attack. It is understood that Pres. Putin has reluctantly agreed to continue to “allow” Israeli countermeasures against Iranian military buildup in Syria that would directly threaten Israel’s security. However, this must annoy his ally Assad in Syria, and also their ally Iran, that is supplying Assad with weapons and direct military support by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Yesterday the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning to Israel to “stop arbitrary attacks” in Syria.
How the situation will evolve in Syria is unknown, but there are four constants: 1. Russia will continue to act as the main power in Syria, supporting the Assad regime that gives it carte blanche in holding air and naval bases there; 2. The Iranians will continue to try to build up their military forces in Syria with the stated intention of attacking and destroying Israel; 3. Israel will consider its existence at stake and will continue to attack and destroy Iranian military facilities in Syria; 4. The Turks will try in any way to destroy the Kurdish-controlled enclave Rojava in northeastern Syria. What is unknown is how the US intends to support its allies the Kurds and protect them against the Turks, or how far the Russians will go in allowing Israel to act against Iran. Yesterday also, the Syrian envoy to the UN threatened that in retaliation for attacks at Damascus airport they will attack Ben Gurion Airport. If they did, that might mean war.