Unhappy with Israeli strikes in Syria, Russia outs Israel’s other operations

Analysts said Israel may have sought to capitalise on internal unrest in Iran.
Friday 22/11/2019
People inspect damaged buildings following a reported Israeli air strike on the Syrian village of Beit Saber, south-west of Damascus, November 20. (AFP)
People inspect damaged buildings following a reported Israeli air strike on the Syrian village of Beit Saber, south-west of Damascus, November 20. (AFP)

LONDON - Russia condemned air strikes claimed by Israel against Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria and exposed details of other suspected Israeli military operations.

Israel confirmed November 20 that its warplanes carried out a “very intense” attack against Iranian elite al-Quds Force and the Syrian military targets in Syria in response to four rockets fired at Israel a day before.

“Whoever hurts us, we will hurt him,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is what we did overnight vis-a-vis military targets of the Iranian al-Quds Force and Syrian military targets in Syria after a barrage of rockets was launched at Israel.”

Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett echoed Netanyahu.

“The rules have changed: Whoever fires on Israel during the day will not sleep at night,” Bennett said in a statement. “Our message to the leaders of Iran is simple: You are no longer immune. Any place you dispatch your tentacles, we will chop them off.”

The BBC said unconfirmed reports suggested that the rocket fire may have been an Iranian-ordered response to Israeli attacks against Iran's allies, either in Iraq or in the Gaza Strip.

“For some analysts, the direction of travel is clear. The question is not so much will there be an all-out conflict but when,” the BBC report added.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said Syrian anti-aircraft defences responded to a “heavy attack” by Israeli warplanes over Damascus.

Israeli Defence Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus said about a dozen military sites, including warehouses, military command centres and a control facility at the main international airport in Damascus, were targeted.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group in Britain, said 21 fighters, including 16 who weren’t Syrian, and two civilians were killed in the strikes.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying the operation “totally contradicts international law.” Bogdanov said Israeli air strikes on Syria were a wrong move and Moscow contacted its allies about the incident, Interfax reported.

“Israeli actions add tension and increase the conflict potential of the situation around Syria and are contrary to efforts to normalise the situation and achieve stability in Syria, including a political settlement in this country,” read a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry also alleged that Israel carried out four attacks in Syria in the past ten days. Moscow accused Israel of violating Iraqi and Jordanian airspace to carry out strikes in Syria, some of which killed Syrian civilians.

France called on Iran to refrain from destabilising actions in Syria.

“France reaffirms its unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” said French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll. “It reaffirms that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and stresses the need to avoid a dangerous escalation of tensions in the Middle East. It asks Iran to refrain from any destabilising activity in Syria.”

Israeli analysts said Israel may have sought to capitalise on internal unrest in Iran.

“It may be that Israel's considerations in pouncing hard on Iranians in Syria and publicly threatening Tehran's leadership are related to the travails the Islamic Republic has found itself in over the recent weeks,” wrote Amos Harel in Haaretz.

“Along with massive demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon, Western intelligence organisations have already described protests in Iran over rising gas prices as the most violent and expansive since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago.”

There is a risk of a wider Iranian-Israeli conflict.

“Israel seems to have become involved in a dangerous regional situation in which a wrong turn could escalate tensions with Iran and its envoys -- possibly to the brink of direct war,” wrote Harel.

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