What happened: An Israeli helicopter is reported to have launched three missiles at Syrian military installations in Quneitra province last night, according to Syrian state TV.
- Three Syrian soldiers were reportedly injured in the airstrike. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not comment on the strike.
- Earlier on Thursday, a suspected Israeli drone strike targeted a vehicle on the Syrian border of the Golan Heights, killing a suspected local militia leader linked to Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli media identified the individual killed as Imad Tawil, a local resident who was involved in setting up “terrorist infrastructure” along the border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the person who was killed had belonged to an organisation called the ‘Syrian Resistance for the Liberation of the Golan Heights,’ a local militia supported by Iran and Hezbollah. Israel has not responded to the reports.
- Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province on Thursday night, in a dramatic escalation in the battle for control of the country’s last opposition stronghold. Turkish officials have blamed the Syrian regime for the attack, but several sources in Idlib claimed the strike had been carried out by the Russian air force. This morning it is being reported that at least 16 Syrian troops and militiamen were killed in Turkish retaliation attacks.
Context: Since 2017 Israel has targeted bases and militias in Syria belonging to Iran and Iranian proxies, primarily Hezbollah, with more than 1,000 strikes on 250 targets. The Israeli military has also hit sites close to the Israel-Syria border along the Golan Heights.
- Tensions on the Israel-Syria border decreased in recent months, although Israel has reportedly attacked more than 50 targets.
- Earlier this week Israel admitted to striking Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets south of Damascus after a barrage of rockets were launched by the group from Gaza into southern Israel.
- Two weeks ago, Syrian state TV reported that the country’s air defence systems were activated following a strike near Damascus Airport that came from the Golan Heights. The Al-Hadath news channel reported that seven fighters were killed in the attack targeting Iranian-backed militias.
- Israel has accused Iran of attempting to set up rocket launching crews and other “terror infrastructure” in the Syrian Golan Heights, to be used against Israel, despite an Israel-Russian agreement to prevent Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah from operating near the Syrian-Israel border.
Looking ahead: This strike is a reminder that Israel is continuing to closely monitor Iranian and Hezbollah activity in southern Syria and will continue to strike targets it views as threats to its national security.
- For Syria it is a sideshow to the fighting in Idlib, as Syrian President Assad’s forces advance on the final parcel of rebel held territory that could end in a showdown between Syrian regime forces and Russia against Turkish-backed militias and the Turkish military.