Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Israel Strikes Targets in Syria - Why, What and Where Did the Attacks Take Place?

Fighting intensifies in Damascus
Israel has acted on its threats to ensure that no advanced weapons are
transferred from the Assad regime to Hezbollah
Last Tuesday, January 29th, Israeli war planes struck a convoy of SS-17 missiles heading towards the Lebanese border. The Israelis had made clear that one of their "red lines" in the Syrian conflict was that it was unacceptable to them for the Assad regime to transfer advanced weaponry and/or chemical weapons to Israel's arch-enemies Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel and Hezbollah fought a bitterly contested, 34 day war in 2006, and both sides have since been preparing for what they both see as the inevitable next conflict. Awhile back, I wrote a five part series of posts looking at the military balance between Israel and Hezbollah, and how conflict between them might be played out.  Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of the Israel Hezbollah series (Note: all posts are fairly sure with a concentration on maps and graphics).

There have been a number of reports in the media of what and where Israel attacked in Syria, such as:

  • Israel attacked a convoy carrying SS-17 missiles to Lebanon;
  • Israel attached the SS-17 convoy, and a Syrian military base in the town of Jamraya that was a research center for chemical and biological weapons;
  • The SS-17 missiles were still at Jamraya, and Israel destroyed both the military base and the weapons in one fell swoop, rather then waiting until the missiles were on the road (here is a good article from Mcclatchy news service on this theory).
  • Finally, there have even been recent reports that Israel also struck other targets in addition to the Jamraya military base and the SS-17 missiles, including an Iranian run intel post in southern Syria targeted at Israel.
While it is difficult to say exactly what happened - the Israelis are being quite coy about things - it is undoubtedly true that both Israel and the US are deathly afraid that as the Assad regime crumbles, some of its chemical or biological weapons or other advanced weaponry could fall into the hands of either Hezbollah in Lebanon, or potentially even worse, Sunni jihadist rebels in Syria from the al-Nusra front who are aligned with al-Qaeda. In fact, the US  itself appears to be so worried that it has given the Israelis the green light for the IDF to strike further targets in Syria if necessary, while the US has also made clear that it is prepared to use maximum force - including special operations troops - to secure any chemical or biological weapons as the chaos in Syria continues.

As always in the Middle East, it is hard to say exactly what happened and what are the motives of the main players, but of one thing I am almost certain - we have not seen the last of Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent the leakage of any advanced weaponry to its enemies.

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