A man sits on an old tank as he watches fighting taking place in Syria from the Israeli side of the border fence.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The leader of a Syrian opposition faction on Thursday praised that day’s air strikes on a Hezbollah arms supply hub on the edge of Damascus International Airport as a “blessed” blow to Hezbollah by Israel. Fahad al-Masri, Paris-based head of the National Salvation Front in Syria, also called for stepped-up Israeli involvement in Syria in order to “crush” the presence of Hezbollah and other militias.
Masri said his information from sources in Syria indicated that the strikes were Israeli and targeted arsenals of weapons and munitions that arrived recently from Iran. “A large portion was to support Hezbollah and the other armed militias belonging to Iran in Syria,” he wrote The Jerusalem Post, adding, “There was also qualitative and strategic weaponry to be transferred to Lebanon to bolster Hezbollah’s military arsenal.
“The Israeli strikes completely destroyed the depositories and the sound of the strong explosions caused alarm in the Syrian capital, which awoke to the sound of the explosions as if it was a destructive earthquake. Flames and fires that went on for a number of hours could be seen from a distance.”
Masri wrote that his group, which is known but is not a major opposition force, felt “great satisfaction, because these blessed strikes come only days after we made a televised address to the Syrian people in which we issued a call to the state of Israel to strike Hezbollah in Syria.”
Social media video of explosions near Syria's Damascus airport, April 27, 2017 (REUTERS)
Masri earlier this year published a “road map to Israeli-Syrian peace” and says he views Israel as a vital bridge to the West for the Syrian opposition. He is among a small minority of Syrian opposition leaders who openly advocate alliance with Israel. He wrote that there is “a shared interest between the Syrian and Israeli peoples in crushing Hezbollah and expelling Iran from Syria and restoring security and stability in Syria. Casting off Assad and his regime is essential for Syrians and has become necessary for Israel’s national security and to the Jewish people.”
“These strikes undoubtedly weaken the role of Hezbollah and Iran and all its militias in Syria, but these strikes must be intense and broad in scope and we call on Israel to include in its military strikes all points of the armed Palestinian factions located on Syrian soil and also the Iraqi and Afghani militias,” he wrote.
Masri has delineated specific areas of Syria where he would like to see Israel strike Hezbollah: the southeast Damascus countryside, Qalamun, Homs countryside, Quseir countryside and south Syria.
“There must be coordination between us and the IDF so that there is movement on the ground for the Syrian [opposition] factions with Israeli-American- British-French air cover to crush the Iranian, Palestinian and Iraqi military presence on the land of Syria. For this we [would] welcome the formation of an Israeli-Syrian committee of coordination and security cooperation which has become necessary at this stage.”
Meanwhile, Moshe Maoz, a leading Israeli Syria specialist, said he believes Thursday’s attack had tacit understanding from Moscow. In its response to the attack, the Kremlin stopped short of a clear condemnation of Israel. It called on “all sides” to refrain from steps that could increase tensions and stressed that Syrian sovereignty should be respected. It said it is in touch with Israel and called on all sides to show restraint.
“Russia’s attitude is positive and it’s surprising, because Syria is their very important ally. Israel is sending a loud and clear message that it is determined to stop any shipments to Hezbollah. The place that was struck is very sensitive, near the airport. I think there was some sort of agreement [with Russia], because Israel doesn’t want to challenge Russia unless it’s very critical. Maybe there was an understanding that yes, Israel can bomb shipments to Hezbollah.”
He said Syria’s response is unlikely to go beyond denunciations. “They can only shout and complain, but what can they do?”he said. “They don’t want to escalate. They’re in bad shape and Russia won’t retaliate on their behalf. They are stuck.”