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Israel fires missiles at Syrian army positions

Israeli Air Force drones reportedly fired four missiles yesterday evening at Syrian army posts in southern Quneitra, near the Israeli-Syrian border.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not comment on the reports but SANA, the Syrian state news agency, quoted a Syrian army source who claimed that the “Israeli enemy” hit multiple sites along the border, including a disused hospital and an army observation post close to the demilitarised zone on the Golan Heights. If confirmed, the strikes would be the first carried out by Israel on Syrian regime positions along the Golan border since mid-2018.

The strikes were directed at areas where Hezbollah and Iranian militias loyal to the Syrian regime are active. Reuters notes that “the area is a bastion of Iranian-backed militias led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group” and quotes Western intelligence sources who say that Hezbollah “has consolidated its new front in southern Syria and entrenched Iran’s influence since the defeat of Sunni rebels who were once backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states”.

The strikes coincided with the commemoration in Tehran of the 40-year anniversary of the Iranian revolution which brought the current regime to power.

Israel recently reopened its side of the Quneitra border crossing, to allow for UN peacekeepers to renew their mandate.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said yesterday that “the security of Israel is of paramount importance”. But, referring to Israeli strikes in Syria, he said: “I don’t say that Israel’s unlawful attacks on targets in Syria … are legitimate and can be justified. No, we condemn them, they are illegitimate.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin are due to meet in Moscow on February 21.

Yesterday the Arab League announced that there is no consensus among member states for the reinstatement of Syria’s membership, which has been suspended since 2011. A number of prominent Arab states backed the opposition to the Bashar Assad regime during the Syrian civil war.