On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “at least six members of the Syrian regime and its allies” were killed Saturday in an Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike in Syria. The Observatory’s report, announced via Twitter, that the deceased were "of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities," but did not elaborate.
The Israeli Defense Force Spokesman’s office confirmed that it launched a large-scale attack against Syrian air defense systems and Iranian targets in Syria. "Twelve targets, including three aerial defense batteries,” including Syrian SA-5 and SA-17 surface-to-air missile batteries and “four Iranian targets that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria were attacked," the military reported in a statement. The strike was in response to an earlier infiltration into Israel by an Iranian drone. The drone originated from an airfield near Palmyra, Syria, and was successfully intercepted and destroyed by an IDF Apache helicopter.
During the Saturday IAF attacks, one Israeli F-16 was shot down after being hit by a Syrian surface-to-air missile. According to reports, Syrians fired ten missiles at one of the fighter planes participating in the operation, and one was able to lock on to its target. The two pilots were able to eject from the craft before it was hit. Both landed in Israeli territory but were injured upon impact. The incident marks the first time an Israeli fighter jet has been shot down in over 30 years, the last occurrence having taken place in 1982 during the first Lebanon War. Despite the loss of the F-16 however, the operation was certainly an overall win for Israel. The IAF conducted another round of strikes on the same area immediately following the shoot-down, and overall managed to destroy half of all Syrian air defenses, according to reports.
What is important to take away from these reports is the growing hostilities on Israel’s northern border and the implications this has for a coming all-out conflict. Indeed, Israeli officials have been increasingly alluding to more intervention in Syria, as Iran continues to collude with the Assad regime to build military capabilities in the country. The Homs Governorate
airbase from where the recently intercepted Iranian drone was launched is one example of the fruits of this co-op. For the past several months, the base is has been operating as a forward outpost of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Sensing the rapidly escalating situation, several major stakeholders in the region have weighed in to ease the tensions. Shortly after the IAF attack on Saturday, the Russian government released an official statement urging both sides to use restraint.
The White House similarly called for an end to the hostilities but placed the blame for the violence squarely on Iran and Syria. In the statement, the administration declared that “Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria.” The document ended by calling on Iran “to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace."
The prospect of a third Israeli northern front war is not a pleasant prospect for most of the key players in the region. Israel certainly has no interest in deploying its civilian-based army and exposing its citizens to a daily barrage of thousands of missiles at the hands of Hezbollah, the Iranian funded Shiite terror group that would certainly be a participant in any future hostilities. Israel, however, may find itself between a rock and a hard place. Any substantial build-up of the Iran-Syria military complex would almost certainly escalate the military conflict.