Monday, May 6, 2013

Israel Strikes Syria - Aims to Prevent Transfer pf Game-Changing Missiles to Hezbollah

Israeli warplanes struck Syria over the weekend near Jamraya
As I discussed in a number of previous blog posts - for example here - I have long seen the situation in Syria as a sectarian civil war between the majority Sunni population and the Alawite minority that forms the backbone of the Assad regime. Israel - wisely enough - has remained aloof from the Syrian civil war.

However, Israel has always made clear that it's one "red line" in the conflict was that it would not tolerate the transfer from Assad to Hezbollah of game changing weapons such as advanced anti-aircraft missiles or longer range ground-to-ground missiles. Next to Iran, Israel sees Hezbollah as it's mortal enemy and fears the Lebanese Shiite organization far more then the Assad regime. Israel already struck Syria once previously, attacking a convoy to Lebanon carrying SS-17 missiles which were likely destined for Hezbollah.

Over the weekend, Israel struck Syria twice in two days, again to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah. In the most recent cases, it appears the target of Saturday and Sunday's attack were a shipment of Iranian made Fatah-110 missiles being delivered to Hezbollah through Syria. Analysts say the Fateh-110 could put the Tel Aviv metropolis in range of Hezbollah gunners, 100 km (60 miles) to the north, which would bolster the arsenal of a group that fired some 4,000 shorter-range rockets into Israel during a month-long war in 2006. The second bombing, this past Sunday May 5th, was particularly intense. It appears Israel struck a weapons research facility and warehouse in the Syrian town of Jamraya.

In an article on the NBC news website, diplomatic correspondent Martin Fletcher outlined the four types of weapons systems Israel would not tolerate being transferred to Hezbollah:
Analysts here say there are four weapons systems on Israel’s blacklist, whose transfer through Syria would trigger air attacks: guided ground to ground rockets like the Iranian Fateh 110’s reportedly destroyed in this weekend’s attack; chemical weapons; land to sea missiles like Russian Yakhont missiles that can hit a ship 200 miles at sea at speeds of up to Mach 2; and anti-aircraft rockets like the SAM 17s that would endanger Israel’s control of the skies.
My opinion is that Israel has reached the point where it is no longer to willingly accept the transfer of weaponry from Iran or Syria to Hezbollah; if that is indeed the case, we can expect more Israeli strikes within Syria going forward.

If you want to read the NBC article by Martin Fletcher, here it is. If you are interested to understand more about the interplay between Israel, Iran and Hezbollah, I also would recommend reading a previous series of posts I did on the subject:

Part 1: If Israel Bombs Iran, Will Hezbollah Attack Israel?

Part 2: Possible Israeli responses if it is attacked by Hezbollah

Part 3: An overview of Hezbollah's arsenal of missiles (with several infographics)

Part 4: The Israeli Military Plans to Destroy Hezbollah in the Next War


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