Philip Harris ConflictDaily.com 17 March 2017
The Syria State run news agency (SANA) put a statement out saying, “Our air defense engaged them and shot down one warplane over occupied territory, hit another one, and forced the rest to flee,”. The Syria news station was referring to air strikes that occurred inside Syria near the Damascus country side and around Palmyra.
For the most part when an unclaimed air strike or strikes occur inside Syrian territory, they are attributed to Israel without the Israelis admitting it was them. This time it was different in almost every way. The targets were different, those targets were in different areas of Syria than Hezbollah’s stronghold around Damascus, and Israel admitted it was them conducting the bombings.
Usually Israel keeps its reporting closed on occurrences like these but they also said they take responsibility for striking targets inside Syrian territory. Israeli officials gave a briefing stating the Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets had returned to airspace over the Jordan river valley when Syria fired anti aircraft missiles at the warplanes.
Israeli got its chance to combat test its Arrow anti missile system yesterday when the Syria forces fired anti aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets. This was the first time the Arrow missile system was used in a real situation and reportedly performed well. It is not sure how many anti aircraft missiles Syrian forces fired at the IAF but there were two loud explosions in the sky over Jerusalem. Air raid sirens were also heard in the Jordan river valley as well.
After the IAF pilots were home and safe the Israeli officials briefed reporters that no damage was done to any aircraft and no friendly forces were injured or killed. Although, the SANA reported that an Israeli jet was shot down near Palmyra.
The “red line” Israel has been operating under inside Syria is to do everything they can to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring game changing weaponry. Assad, the Syrian President, has secured the five largest cities inside Syria in his brutal war against his own population. With the Syrian war not coming to an end but looking like its shifting to an insurgency campaign, Hezbollah has been solidifying its forces inside Syria. Israel must prevent Hezbollah from gaining too much power.
If the Syrian war does calm down, Israel sees Hezbollah being the biggest benefactor to this calming down scenario. Hezbollah has been a lot of the manpower for the Syrian regimes army and if they are not needed, then Hezbollah could turn its attention back to Israel. The two side have already fought a brutal war in 2006 that caused thousands of people to lose their lives, and it only lasted 34 days.
Both sides in this, Hezbollah and Israel, have said they will not hold back in the next round of fighting. Simply put, the two sides are not even trying to say there wont be a next war but always refer to saying in the next war. This means both sides are very actively preparing for conflict as we speak.