Israel has destroyed one-third of Syrian air defenses in the past two years, and close to a thousand surface-to-air missiles have been launched towards Israel Air Force jets during missions for its “war-between-wars” campaign targeting Iranian infrastructure in the war-torn country.Israel has been carrying out its war-between-war campaign against Iran since 2013, striking thousands of targets in Syria, and according to foreign reports in neighboring Iraq, in order to prevent the smuggling of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria where they could easily act against Israel.Israel does not comment on most alleged strikes, but it has been accused of carrying out strikes around the capital of Damascus as well as deep inside Syrian territory including in northern Syria near the Turkish border as well as the al-Bukamal region near the Syrian-Iraqi border.Nevertheless, with an increase in strikes by Israel, the Syrian regime began to respond and fire surface-to-air missiles at Israeli jets. According to data seen by The Jerusalem Post, 844 such missiles were fired between 2017-2020 compared to just two fired between 2010-2013.In response to the firing of the missiles, IAF jets struck the launchers and have taken out regime air-defense batteries such as Sa2, Sa17, Sa22, and SA5. Dozens of Syrian regime soldiers were killed in the strikes.
Since the campaign began, Israel has carried out dozens of operations and the number of operations has only increased over the years.While in the past Israel was accused of targeting weapon convoys for Hezbollah which arrived via Iraq and infrastructure on the Golan Heights, the strikes over the past year have been targeting Iranian infrastructure and its presence on the ground to prevent Iran from embedding itself in Syria, and compromise Israel’s freedom of operation.The Iranians have also been carrying out a war-between-wars campaign of their own, using proxies like the Houthis in Yemen or Hezbollah to carry out attacks as well as their own forces to down US military assets like the Global Hawk that was shot down in 2019. With more advanced air defense systems being deployed in Syria like the Russian S-300 and long-range missiles brought in by Iran, the war-between-wars campaign has been getting more complicated for the IAF.Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015 on the side of President Bashar Assad and Moscow is seen as the main power to speak with when Israel wants to carry out strikes in the country.And though two players have been using a deconfliction mechanism in order to avoid any unwanted conflict, the Russians who are on the ground in Syria are not those sitting in Moscow speaking with the Israelis.Nevertheless, Russia has allowed Israel to maintain its freedom of operation over Syria, as long as it does not endanger their forces.
IAF jets taking part in campaign against Iran (Credit: IDF Spokesperson"s Unit)