Israeli airstrikes hit several Iranian and Hezbollah-related targets near a Russian naval base in Syria on Sunday, according to Syrian military sources.
The strikes – which Israel has not taken credit for – targeted an Iranian base near the village of Abu Afsa and an air defense and nearby radar station. The Syrian army said that three servicemen were killed and another three wounded in the attacks, one in Tartus and another one near Damascus.
Meanwhile, an American military base in Syria was attacked by drones belonging to a Shiite-affiliated terror group later in the day. It is unclear whether this attack was in response for the alleged Israeli strike.
The U.S. Army said that some of the drones were intercepted and there were no casualties or damage to property.
“Operation Inherent Resolve forces, in coordination with our Maghaweir al-Thowra partners, responded to an attack by multiple unmanned aerial systems in the vicinity of Al-Tanf Garrison,” the army said in a statement.
Israeli authorities rarely discuss the air raids in Syria in public and this was no different. Nevertheless, the strike targeted coastal areas which are dominated by the Alawite sect, a minority in Syria but one that controls the halls of power as President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite himself.
Israel has conducted many bombing raids inside Syria in recent years, targeting weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy terrorist organization in Lebanon and other Iranian-linked sites. The campaign has become known as “the war between wars,” and the purpose of the low-intensity war is not only to prevent Iran from making weapons transfers but to stop it from becoming permanently entrenched in Syria, including through its terrorist proxy Hezbollah. If weapons were transferred to Hezbollah, it would threaten the region in general and pose a specific threat to Israel.
Israel has generally avoided targeting areas close to Russia’s interests in Syria, including the coastal provinces where Moscow has a base at the port of Tartus and Hmeimim air base in the nearby Latakia province.
This time, however, the strikes were close to Russia’s military assets, marking something of an escalation in a low-intensity war, according to Israeli and regional military experts.
Russia usually ignores Israeli air strikes upon Iranian targets in Syria. In May, however, Russian forces fired S-300 anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets during IAF airstrikes in northwestern Syria, according to Israeli Channel 13.
In July, Israel said its jets had not been hit by the anti-aircraft fire and described what had happened as a “one-off incident.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at a conference hosted by Channel 13, said that the Russian launch happened when the aircraft “were no longer around.” Israel's coordination with Russia over Syria is “a situation that is stable right now, I think,” Gantz added. “But we are always reviewing this story as if we only just began it now.”
There have been growing tensions between Israel and Russia over Israel’s condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The tensions culminated when Russia’s Ministry of Justice ordered the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel to be shut down, a move that is currently being heard by a Moscow court. The decision to shut down the Jewish agency has been widely seen as Russia’s way of punishing Israel over its condemnation of the Ukraine war.
Ukraine, for its part, still thinks that Israel has remained too “neutral” on the issue of Russia's invasion, even though the Israeli government has not joined the international sanctions against Russia, or sent weapons to Ukraine.
The Times of Israel reported on Monday that Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told the Israeli news outlet, “It’s the biggest mistake, right now, to take a neutral position if Israel promotes democratic values and sees Ukraine as a peaceful country. It always was a peaceful country where peaceful people live. We never, ever were aggressive to anyone.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.