Israel air raid targets government positions as Syrian conflict intensifies
18 March 2017
In yet another sign of the threat of a wider war in the Middle East, the Syrian government fired anti-aircraft missiles early Friday morning at Israeli planes after Tel Aviv launched one of its deepest incursions into the conflict to date, carrying out a raid near the Syrian city of Palmyra.
Although none of the fighter jets were shot down, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deployed its Arrow missile defense system to take down one of the Syrian missiles north of Jerusalem. Residents were awoken by air raid sirens and pieces of the Syrian missile landed in Jordan, prompting the Israeli army to issue a statement on the incident.
Israeli planes have conducted numerous strikes since 2012 on arms shipments Tel Aviv claims are being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The army has tended to downplay these activities, with initial reports generally appearing in the international media.
But Friday’s attack marked the deepest incursion yet. The positions hit near Palmyra were reportedly occupied by government troops and aligned Hezbollah forces who are advancing on Islamic State fighters to the east.
Israel’s growing aggressiveness in its actions over Syria is bound up with its role as the closest US ally in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned of Israel’s refusal to accept an expanded role for Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, both of which backed Assad’s forces in the country’s civil war. As Netanyahu provocatively declared during a recent visit to Moscow, “One of the most important issues we will discuss is Iran’s attempt to make an agreement with Syria. With or without Syria’s agreement, Iran will attempt to establish a…