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Air Raids and Missile Attacks Show Israel Flexing Its Muscles in Syria
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Israeli jets and ground-to-ground missile attacks on targets in the outskirts of Damascus are a mark of Israel’s heightened concern as President Bashar al-Assad comes close to winning the civil war in Syria. Israel’s security cabinet has held meetings several times in recent days to discuss how it should respond to the “day-after” the war as Syria returns to Mr Assad’s control and to Iran’s expanded influence in Syria according to Israeli television reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s policy was to stop Hezbollah moving “game-changing weapons” out of Syria into Lebanon. “We back it [the policy] up as necessary with action,” he added. Israel has carried out more than 100 air strikes against Syrian Army and Hezbollah arms depots and military facilities in the past six years.

The strikes are a sign that Israel is trying to adjust to likely new developments in Syria in 2018: as the end of the civil war comes in sight, Hezbollah and the Syrian armed forces, both battle hardened by the war, will no longer be tied down by fighting and could be deployed to confront Israel.

The Syrian war is by no means over, but the success of the coalition that includes Iran, Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia forces means that the balance of power in the region is swinging against Israel.

The Syrian Army is advancing swiftly without much resistance into the largest remaining rebel enclave in province of Idlib south west of Aleppo, in an offensive launched a week ago. Backed by artillery and air strikes, Syrian units are fighting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as the al Nusra Front and once the Syrian arm of al-Qaeda, which is dominant in the province. Other rebel groups complain that HTS is refusing to cooperate with them in holding back government forces.

The Syrian Army and air force are also battering Eastern Ghouta, the other large rebel enclave just east of Damascus, the capture of which would give Mr Assad full control of the capital and the area round it, something he has not enjoyed since 2011.

Although the long-term success of Syrian government forces looks inevitable, it will take them time to re-establish central control. The Syrian Kurds – who captured Isis’s de facto capital Raqqa in October backed by US-led air strikes – control a great swathe of territory east of the Euphrates. They need to keep US support, including several bases in Kurdish-held territory, as a guarantee against Turkish military intervention or an offensive by Syrian forces. At the same time, they look to a long-term agreement with Damascus which would guarantee their autonomy.

Israel is concerned about the return of the Syrian Army to parts of southern Syria close to Israel as it tries to reopen the road to Jordan. There is a US-Russian agreement arranged by President Vladimir Putin that Hezbollah and Iranian backed forces will not approach within 25 miles of the Israeli-Syrian front line in the Golan.

But Mr Assad is likely to be less reliant on the support, and more independent of the wishes, of his two main allies, Russia and Iran, as he gets close to victory.


The latest Israeli air strikes and the angry Syrian response show that both sides are muscle-flexing. But, while the Israelis have an interest in preventing Hezbollah acquiring a substantial arsenal of long-range missiles that could reach far into Israel, neither side has an interest in going to war which would cause a lot of destruction but produce no winner, as in 2006 when Israel fought Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel has received vociferous backing from President Trump and the US but the Israelis must wonder – along with the rest of the world – how much Mr Trump’s supportive tweets are really worth. Even his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not an unalloyed gain for Israel since it changes nothing much on the ground, but it has put the Israeli-Palestinian issue back at the top of the political agenda in the Middle East to a degree not seen since 9/11 and the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Israeli air strikes are not necessarily a precursor to a wider military conflict, but they do show that Israel believes it can no longer stay on the margins of the Syrian war. As the conflict comes to an end that is bound to be messy, Israel wants to be a leading player in shaping its final outcome.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Middle East, Syria 
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  1. If the Israeli attacks continue, then Syria or Hezbollah should lob a few scuds at Israeli nuclear power stations.

  2. Interesting euphemism for a war crime: “muscle flexing”.

  3. Realist says:

    “Israel wants to be a leading player in shaping its final outcome.”

    But they should not be involved at all.

  4. geographically israel is an indefensible nation.

    it is exactly like expecting rhode island to withstand a war against new york state, massachusetts and maine next door.

    the nuclear weapons israel owns do them no longer any good because they can not use them in actual combat without suffering the use of the same against them which renders israel extinct.

    using the large western nation as bullies for them in the past has been their primary means of physcial survival in a hostile region. had the isarelis had any brains they might have used the past 60 years to come to terms and cordiality with their neighbors understanding that the world changes and the bullies that protect them might not always be there in that same role.

    sadly their arrogance and lebensraum guiding philosophy know no bounds.

    now confronted with neighbors tired of their brutality against those who can not fight back, confronted by the miniturazation of offensive weaponry playing defense is no longer an easy or cost effective way of providing safety to their people now the israelis are facing frontally their decision many decades ago the decision to take rather than negotiate.

    in truth israel have no muscle worth spit to flex.

    their nuclear forces can not be used despite bluster
    their army is built to occupy not confront motivated enemies as hezzbollah demonstrated in 2006
    now against truly battle hardened neighbor they stand no chance without USA DIRECT troop involvement
    their airforce can no longer even fly beyond their own borders except for the time being into lebanaon for feat of being targeted by state of the art russian and eventually syrian missile backed air defense leaving israel forced to launch strikes from a distance into syria

    what israel needs they seem unwilling to do.

    change their attitude towards their neighbors. the world has change, offense has dropped precipitously in price while defense has skyrocketed and without humility israel has no long term future.

    thus far all i see from israel and its neocon supporters in the west is cocky ignorant historically false assumptions of their actual power and chances for survival in an all out war.

    they are the mouse that roared

    whistling past the graveyard comes to mind.

    • Replies: @MEexpert
    , @windwaves
    , @anon
    , @Altai
  5. headrick says:

    A few S-300 would be refreshing!

  6. Talha says:

    Yeah – I’m actually surprised that Syria hasn’t tried to shoot some of these planes down in a completely justified defense posture. Is it because the Russians won’t allow it?

    If so – what the hell good is an air-defense system if you can’t use it to stop foreign aircraft from carrying out aggressive sorties on your soil?

    Makes no sense…


    • Replies: @iffen
    , @paraglider
    , @Randal
  7. For “flexing its muscles” read

    Perpetrates more war crimes

  8. anon • Disclaimer says:

    1”at is, a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the [UK] Observer notes:
    “The United States has pledged to tackle the Syrian-backed Hizbollah group in the next phase of its ‘war on terror’ in a move which could threaten military action against President Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus. The move is part of Washington’s efforts to persuade Israel to support a new peace settlement with the Palestinians. Washington has promised Israel that it will take ‘all effective action’ to cut off Syria’s support for Hizbollah – implying a military strike if necessary, sources in the Bush administration have told The Observer.”
    This is how Washington seeks to “persuade” the Israelis – by caving to their every demand. “

    2The Confidante, by Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler–includes further evidence of the centrality of Israel to the Iraq-war-planners. Kessler reports that in September 2002, as the Israelis were besieging Arafat in Ramallah, Dov Weissglas, Sharon’s chief of staff, flew to D.C. to defend Israel’s actions.
    Rice cut him off after just ten minutes… [and] pointedly noted that the administration was in a sensitive situation with the Arab world, as it prepared to go to war with Iraq. “This effort, if it happens, it will be a strategic relief to Israel,” Rice said. “It is more important than Arafat. What you are doing now is an obstruction.” She said that Bush was probably the greatest friend of Israel since its creation, and now Israel was creating a problem. “The United States will never restrain you against any action which is needed to protect your people and stop terror, even if it takes place in the worst political context,” Rice added. “This is not the case.”
    And Weissglas called Sharon, and the siege ended. -

    Iraq war, Syrian war and Iranian war are all offered to Israel by the Israeli firsters in US administration as American gift,duty,and responsibility to Israel by various times over last 2-3 decades by different incestuous products of Zionist lineages. By the time new offer is made, old offer that has been duly delivered is forgotten

  9. iffen says:

    Makes no sense…

    Maybe they don’t need Hezbollah in Syria anymore.

  10. @Talha

    it is highly probable that russian air defense pickup the radar signal of israeli aircraft once they are in the air but within israeli air space and then proceeds to track these plane throughout their flight path.

    it is also probable that these israeli planes never actually enter syrian air space but fire off their missiles from within israeli territory proper or from within lebanese territory. or the missiles are shot directly from ground batteries within israel. the distance is not far to damascus.

    the russian will not shoot down an israeli plane not in syrian territory and not presenting presenting a firing solution to russian assets in latakia or tartus. those air defenses are protect russians not syrians specifically.

    assad from what i can garner does not yet have integrated s400 air batteries or current russian EW modules nor do his people have the training as yet to operate these modules.

    thus for the time being israel is allowed to fire these missiles at syria and to pretend they have something to say about the outcome of the ending war and the negotiations to comes over the settlement.

    imo those decisions of importance regarding syrian territorial intgerity which will ultimately include the long seized golan will be decided by putin/assad/other stakeholders in the fighting and will not include washington or tel aviv in any substantive manner.

    washingtons pretense to keep troops in syria at makeshift bases in the east is the pentagons plan to stay relevant as the outcome is concluded with the hope of using kurds to balkanize eastern syria .

    appropriately enough…… a rube goldberg cartoon if ever there was one.

  11. Randal says:

    The Syrians certainly have fired back on at least a few occasions (they routinely say they’ve done so but Israel has acknowledged it in at least one case (Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit’).

    It’s complicated by the fact that these are not old fashioned air raids involving planes flying to the targets and back, the Israeli attacks are mostly standoff attacks from Lebanese or Israeli airspace, or short incursions over the border. That makes it difficult to use the relatively primitive Syrian air defences to target and hit them, and possibly allows the Israelis to cover up any hits they might achieve. Syria claimed a hit yesterday (Syrian air defenses hit Israeli warplane amid multiple missile attacks on military positions), but no confirmation as yet I don’t think.

    If the Russians have put S300s in Syrian hands, they seemingly haven’t authorised their use against these attacks.

    If so – what the hell good is an air-defense system if you can’t use it to stop foreign aircraft from carrying out aggressive sorties on your soil?

    The Israelis have a first rate air force effectively infinitely subsidised by the world’s only superpower. Syria is a broken third world country without a great power patron willing to stand up to Israel. That’s not fair, but life isn’t fair generally.

    It’s a disgraceful situation that Israel is allowed to get away with this kind of continuous cross-border aggression, but then little about Israel is justifiable by normal standards. Consider it just another grim side effect of the excess Israeli “influence” in the US. Same applies to Saudi and Yemen – if you are an “influential” client of the US you can literally get away with murder.

    • Replies: @Talha
  12. Talha says:

    Excellent points, all. Yeah, if you are under the US wing, then you definitely have a long leash to flaunt the rules. Too bad the Russians haven’t let them give it a go – maybe this is what Bibi and Putin talked about during his visit.

    I would imagine the Russians would love to test drive their systems in real-time situations with minimum negative repercussions to them.


    • Replies: @iffen
    , @Randal
  13. iffen says:

    I would imagine the Russians would love to test drive their systems in real-time

    I doubt that. We only need look back on the previous iterations of the Russian S-xxx systems to see what happened the last time Israel decided to kick ass and take names.


    Too bad the Russians haven’t let them give it a go

    doesn’t go with this:


    OT How about Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho?

    • Replies: @Randal
    , @Talha
  14. Randal says:

    Too bad the Russians haven’t let them give it a go

    doesn’t go with this:


    Only in the warped world of the hippy pacifist or the Israeli apologist does firing defensive weapons against aggressive attacks against targets on your own territory count as a breach of the peace.

    • Replies: @MEexpert
  15. Randal says:

    Iffen’s not necessarily entirely wrong on this, though, however grossly biased his opinions are on this kind of topic.

    There is an argument that the last thing the Russians need right now would be their prized air defences failing in such a high profile manner. They wouldn’t trust the Syrians to operate them unsupervised and they can’t be absolutely confident the Israelis haven’t got some tricks up their sleeves that will defeat them in this particular situation.

    Most likely though there have been top level agreements on this, given Russia’s clear intention of staying on good terms with Israel if possible. There might well be restrictions to what the Israelis are expected to do under those agreements, though, as well.

    • Replies: @Talha
  16. MEexpert says:

    Only in the warped world of the hippy pacifist or the Israeli apologist does firing defensive weapons against aggressive attacks against targets on your own territory count as a breach of the peace.

    Didn’t you know that only the “chosen ones” have the right to pre-emptively strike in “self-defence?” They are also the ones who define what peace is and is not.

  17. Talha says:

    Hey iffen,

    doesn’t go with this

    Sure it does. I said “Peace” not “Like Pacifism, Brah!”

    If Israelis are making aggressive air sorties into Syrian territory it is totally within Syria’s rights to use their anti-air equipment to ward off any attacks and keep the peace. Defense is not contradictory to maintaining the peace.


    OT: Doubtful – there is plenty of farmland but no ocean coastline for a major port or a heavy-water navy. I would imagine Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Throw in Colorado to make them happy, nobody skis but White people. The only major problem I see is that a lot of Leftists in Washington are going to be purged or have to flee into Canada.

  18. Talha says:

    Hey Randal,

    Yeah, I get it – if it screws up, then sales go down big time.

    Your last paragraph seems to be the most likely scenario – a quid pro quo; yeah go ahead and do damage, but not close to our guys and not too much.


    • Replies: @Randal
  19. One thing is definitely changing about the position of American support of Israel – more and more Americans are no longer pro-Israel – they realize that the Palestinians are not being treated fairly. They also see that Israel leads America down a path that few other countries will travel into a needless war. The main support that Israel still has is among the elected leadership of America (i.e. “the bribable”) and the insane “Christian Zionists”. (Any Christian with any knowledge of their own faith realizes that the Jewish/Christian divide was firmly established by Paul and the early Church – Paul was particularly insistent that Christian Church must not be “judacized”.),
    I, personally, will be delighted when America decides that World hegemony is not worth the expense, and that any military force eventually loses. There are more and more Americans coming to those views. Israel should reflect upon how little support America has in the World for their stupid and cruel defense of Israel and their landgrabs and nasty apartheid system. A “wised-up” America would no longer spend trillions of dollars to rid Israel of their imagined enemies.

  20. Randal says:

    It’s more even than just sales. A lot of Russian credibility, as a military force and as a great power, rests on their perceived ability to defeat or at least deter US air power, and to offer that capability to allies.

    Losing that could be a lot more costly than just a few $billion in sales.

    • Agree: Talha
    • Replies: @skrik
  21. skrik says:

    rests on their perceived ability to defeat or at least deter US air power

    It’s an interesting ‘thought experiment.’ Kindly consider Fallon’s ‘no attack on Iran on my watch,’ the ‘re-floating’ exercise, uss donald cook etc., then R-supported win in Syria = US/Z dead loss. At a rough guess, I’d say the US/Zs are ‘running on empty’ and it’s a Q of not IF but WHEN. Not so BTW, I’m with Talha’s ‘peace.’ But to extend the ‘thought experiment,’ I imagine that if the idiots push things too far [as it looks like some want to], twin Hs will arrive in the same split-second over some illegitimate entity. Then, if even just one Samson were to go off, a certain brand of DNA will most likely exit this planet with extreme prejudice. Any aware/wise people in/near that illegitimately squatted upon area may well be quietly shitting their pants. peace&rgds

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  22. windwaves says:

    what a fantastic post, sorry I really wanted to say that.

    • Agree: Talha
  23. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Israel will come round to the view of the reality check you have just jotted down. But that is the time to get extremely vigilant careful and have very high bar in taking that tribe into confidence Otherwise the tribe will hurt the Arabs the way they have Germany UK and USA- by playing as underdog as honest reformed well wishing community.

  24. Altai says:

    I think Israel thought that longer term they’d just consume enough land and build up a big enough population to sustain themselves and that then a policy to tie down or control their neighbours would be enough without a superpower’s favour. This hasn’t happened. All of Likud and Netanyahu’s plans are this essentially, just punt them and hope a solution presents itself, keep damaging their neighbours economically, militarily or stirring up sectarian and ethnic divisions to buy time, they’re still looking for a long-term answer.

    There is at present no way Israel is sustainable so they just keep going in the hope that a plan might emerge or that the international order will deteriorate and they’ll be able to get away with more naked land grabs and ethnic cleansing. Israel itself is not very powerful, it’s society is utterly corrupt and riven with huge ethnic and religious divisions and it has made itself a pariah by living up to every anti-semetic stereotype in the book. When the Israel lobby finally overreaches or the US falls from power, things won’t be pretty.

    • Replies: @paraglider
    , @Bill Jones
  25. If the UN truly had teeth and with the backing of the major countries including the US, Israel would be forced to disarm and then become a Protectorate with guarantees that it could continue ta exist as a Jewish state. I realize this is an idle dream but unless something drastic is done to stifle the drums of war in the Mideast, a nuclear holocaust will surely result. Call it Armageddon if you wish.

  26. @Altai

    having been to israel and most the middle east a number of times i agree with you.
    in fact i will go so far as to speculate that israel will not see its 100th anniversary in its current form.

    its continued survival require infusions from the west mainly the united states. here in the usa we are now confronted with a bifurcated population where the divide is getting more intractable not less.
    in fact we may not remain a unified nation geographically speaking by the middle of the 21rst century.

    this has nothing to do with trump or not trump. it is the inevitable result of being a multi ethnic empire held together by coercion and force and now that force and coercion has failed revealing ugly divisions.

    the center, washington, is collapsing, and as result of this implosion centrifigal force is driving the various regions of the our nation father apart.

    historically this is what it looks like when an empire dies.

  27. Bill Jones says: • Website

    One more time- it’s not anti-semitism, it’s Counter-semitism.

  28. Bill Jones says: • Website

    Russia has a defense department. The US has a looting department.

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