The Israeli military has identified the withdrawal of some Iranian militia forces as well as Iranian and Hezbollah operatives withdrawing from Syria.
Iran has been one of the main allies of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the decade-long war that ravaged the country, sending thousands of militia fighters and equipment in an attempt to entrench itself there.
The withdrawal of the forces detected by the IDF comes after a report in the Saudi-owned a-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that reported Russian officials demanding that the Iranians leave several sites in Syria, including its military headquarters in the western Hama province, situated next to the Syrian army’s Regiment 49 base.
According to the report, Moscow made the request in order to remove potential targets for Israel that are located near Russian military sites. Despite increased tension between Israel and Russia, the two militaries have a deconfliction mechanism in order to prevent unnecessary friction during IAF operations.
What is Israel doing to fight Iran up north?
In an attempt to thwart Tehran’s aspirations of regional hegemony and to thwart the smuggling of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon from Iran, Israel has been carrying out its war-between-the-wars campaign (known as MABAM in Hebrew) for close to a decade.
The IDF believes that MABAM has led to a strategic change in the region and destroyed the vision of Qassem Soleimani, the former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander who was killed in an American airstrike in Baghdad in 2020.
Part of Soleimani’s plan was to establish missile, anti-aircraft and intelligence bases as well as a force similar to Hezbollah in Syria. While MABAM hasn’t removed Iran completely from the area, it has achieved a majority of objectives set by the military.
Last year, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said that the increase in operations - both overt and clandestine - had led to a slowdown of Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, “but we still have a long way to go to complete our goals in this arena.”
According to Kohavi, Israel ramped up its campaign and between May and July carried out a double-digit amount of strikes throughout the Middle East as part of it.
Not only have the strikes in Syria destroyed an immeasurable amount of advanced and strategic weaponry, but Iran’s air, land and sea corridors didn’t function for 70% of 2021 due to operations carried out as part of the campaign.
Alleged Israeli airstrikes have also targeted the bases used by Iran around the country. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that Iran has at least 10 bases used for missile production, including those that have been targeted by Israel.
Hezbollah, Tehran’s leading proxy group, has over 15 bases in the country and has been active in recruiting local Syrians in the south along the border with Israel’s Golan Heights. Along with alleged Israeli airstrikes targeting Iranian militia units, weapons, and bases, drone strikes targeting Syrian militants working with Hezbollah have also been blamed on the Jewish State.
The military believes that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are deterred from war with Israel, as they rarely retaliate against Israeli strikes. When they do, they tend to target American bases.