Analysis: Israel’s reported airstrike in Syria – has a red line been crossed?
The Syrian Observatory Human Rights, which on Wednesday broke the news of an alleged Israeli strike south of Damascus, is regarded as a reliable source of information on military and humanitarian developments in the five-year Syrian civil war.
Although its offices are in London, the organization has contacts across Syria and is frequently relied on by international media outlets, which have been barred from the country for much of the conflict.
As such, the international media was quick to pick up the Observatory’s report on the alleged Israeli airstrike.
Israel has three red lines regarding the conflict in Syria. Firstly, it will not allow its sovereign territory to be infringed upon. Secondly, it will not permit weapons transfers that would break the strategic balance vis-à-vis Hezbollah and Syria. And thirdly, it won’t allow chemical weapons to fall into Hezbollah’s hands.
It can be safely assumed that if Israel did indeed carry out a strike, it was in response to the second of these red lines being breached, in order to prevent a transfer of arms from Syria or Iran to Hezbollah.
“The building targeted by an alleged Israeli air raid that killed a senior figure in the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, in Jaramana, southeast of Damascus, December 20, 2015”
The Syrians and Iranians have, over the past few years, tried to provide Hezbollah with both high-powered precision surface-to-surface missiles, and new anti-aircraft missiles that would hinder the Israel Air Force’s ability to operate in the skies over Lebanon and Syria. The IAF has work to do to prepare for the use of these Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, which have a range of dozens of kilometers, are highly mobile and launch automatically. They can also be stashed away in places that Israeli intelligence will have difficulty locating.
The international media has previously reported that Israel has carried out strikes against convoys of weapons that Syria has purchased from Russia and tried to transfer to Hezbollah. Russia recently sent S-400 air defense missiles to Syria, which can hit planes over a hundred kilometers away and at different heights. The Russians primarily brought the system into Syria in order to threaten Turkish planes after the Turkish military downed a Russian jet. While they are only being used by the Russian military, the potential remains for them to fall into Hezbollah’s hands.
Why didn’t Russia intervene?
If Israel did strike targets south of Damascus, as international
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