Analysis: Will the Israel, Syria missile flare-up set a new precedent?

The incident showed the explosiveness that is threatening Israeli-Syrian relations, with the presence of Iran and Hezbollah, who are attempting to reach Israel's borders.

March 17, 2017 16:14
2 minute read.
arrow 3

An "Arrow 3" ballistic missile interceptor is seen during its test launch near Ashdod. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In the most serious border incident since the start of the Syrian civil war six years ago, the Arrow defense system intercepted a Syrian missile fired at an IAF fighter jet, not long after midnight on Thursday night. The incident showed the explosiveness that is threatening Israeli-Syrian relations, with the presence of Iran and Hezbollah, which are attempting to reach Israel’s borders.

Sponsored by the Syrian military regime under President Bashar Assad, the forces are looking to open a second front in addition to the Lebanese border.

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One can estimate that Israel’s intelligence gathered accurate information which enabled the IAF to target what are considered “strategic weapons,” or in other words, accurate, long-range missiles, on their way to Hezbollah.

After the jet fighters completing the mission, while on their way back to Israel, Syria’s anti-aircraft missile defense system was activated. However, the fired missile missed the IAF planes.

Syria’s response to the IAF’s strike forced the IAF to use its Arrow battery, to shoot down at least one Syrian missile.

It would be the first time that the Arrow defense system, which was built to intercept ground-to-ground and ballistic missiles, was successfully used to shoot down an anti-aircraft missile.

Such attacks are usually reported by foreign media and official statements from the Syrian Army. This time, however, the IDF spokesperson confirmed the attack in the early morning hours, a result of the fact that alert systems were activated in the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem area. Residents claimed to have heard and seen the launch.

An IDF source told The Jerusalem Post that Israel has no plans to escalate or intensify tension with the Syrian military; however, Israel will continue to operate according its red lines, working to stop the transfer of weapons, mainly accurate, long-range missiles being transferred from Iran, through Syria, to Hezbollah.

Syria, Iran and Hezbollah also have no interest in an escalation, especially with Syria’s civil war raging on with no end in sight.

This issue was a focal point in talks last week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Netanyahu sought to elevate Putin’s understanding of Israel’s interests in Syria as well as of its red lines. Netanyahu stressed that Israel will not allow any attempts by Iran or Hezbolah to send their forces to Israel’s border with Syria on the Golan Heights.

However, it seems that even though Putin may understand Israel’s interests, Russia’s influence on Assad and his army is not absolute.

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