Iran and Israel lead a war escalation in the Middle East. Both countries launched missile attacks against each other’s interests. Can the conflict intensify?
The alarming news about a massive Iranian missile attack came shortly after midnight. Twenty shots blew sirens in the Golan Heights and brought to Israel IEs their beds. The missiles were directed against Israeli military posts on the Syrian border.
Finally, none of those missiles hit the Israeli zone: four were shot down and the rest fell on the Syrian side of the plateau conquered by Israel in 1967. The reaction of the Israeli army, however, had serious consequences: at least 23 people were killed in attacks against 50 Iranian targets in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Iran is, together with Russia, the main ally of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.
” We have hit almost all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. According to the press, it is the worst Israeli attack in Syria since the Yom Kippur war in 1973. The dangerous escalation comes a day after US President Donald Trump announced his unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran.
The Israeli army had been preparing for an Iranian attack in the Golan Heights (Golan Heights) for days and the secret services detected “suspicious activities” of the Iranian forces in the neighboring country. Tehran increasingly expands its military capabilities in Syria and Israel has long sought to stop its archenemy with air strikes. After suffering losses in recent attacks, Iran had vowed revenge.
It is not yet clear what will happen now. As the Iranian attacks on the Golan Heights caused no damage, Tehran could attempt to attack again. In doing so, Israel would retaliate and the conflict could escalate rapidly and spread. “They must remember that if it rains here (in Israel), it will rain off,” threatened Israeli Minister Lieberman.
For Riad Tabara, a former Lebanese Ambassador in Washington, the risk of a major war is not high. “Currently attacks are limited to an exchange of blows,” he said. “To wage a great war the (Lebanese) Hezbollah militia would need a green light from Iran, Iran would need it from Russia and Israel from the United States,” he said, and neither Russia nor the United States has an interest in it.
Israel informed Russia about the attacks in Syria and on Wednesday it had shown good agreement with Moscow in a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Israel blames the attacks on the Golan Heights on the Al Quds brigades – elite units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – and their commander Qassem Suleimani. The latter has a legendary fame among the followers of Syrian President Al Assad. It is the face of Tehran that appears again and again in the Syrian civil war and is cheered. Iran used in the fighting in Syria especially the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which fights with the Al Assad Army and other militias. Without the help of Iran, the Syrian president would have lost power some time ago.
The Syrian opposition has even claimed that the country is “occupied” by Iranian troops. For Iran, it is about maintaining a major corridor that runs from Lebanon in the Mediterranean through Syria and Iraq to Tehran, a route by which weapons and troops can easily be transported and which Israel considers a threat. Tehran has a great influence in the region through troops that are loyal to it. According to a senior official of the Israeli Government, there are up to 70,000 Shiite militiamen in Syria.
“The ball is now on the roof of Iran,” said Nitzan Nuriel, former director of the Israeli counterterrorism office. In his opinion, the Iranian leaders must decide “if they want to intensify the conflict and for example put Hezbollah into action”.
But are Iran and Hezbollah interested in a war with Israel? At a military level, it would be difficult to win. Hezbollah is weakened after suffering great losses in the Syrian war. And analysts believe that after its success in parliamentary elections last week, the Lebanese militia does not want to take risks right now. Even so, he put his troops on alert at the border with Israel.
It would not be favorable for Iran either to face Israel at the diplomatic level right now, because it would weaken the efforts to save the nuclear agreement, which depends above all on France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
In the next few days, events are coming that could contribute to a destabilization of the Middle East. In another unilateral decision, Trump will transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday, much to the outrage of the Palestinians.
In addition, these will commemorate the day of the Nakba on Tuesday, which recalls the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after the foundation of the Israeli state 70 years ago. That day a million people are scheduled to march in the Gaza Strip to the border with Israel, the culmination of protests that since the end of March left more than 50 Palestinians dead.
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