The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported Wednesday that three Israeli missiles struck Syrian army outposts near the capital of Damascus.
If the reports are confirmed by the Israeli government, it would mark the first time Israel has been directly involved in the now five-year Syrian civil war. No casualties have been reported thus far, and it appears the missiles have only caused property damage. A pro-Syrian government source has denied the reports to Israel’s Haaretz news outlet.
Until now, Israel has been surprisingly quiet regarding the ongoing Syrian conflict. Aside from an air strike on a shared Hezbollah-Syrian government facilities near the Lebanese border in October of last year, Israel’s military has remained hands off in the situation.
The alleged Israeli attack comes after claims that Russia is actively supplying and coordinating with terrorist group Hezbollah in Syria. Russia denied any claims of support to Hezbollah in early February.
Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group and a mortal enemy of Israel. The two engaged in a brief war in 2006, though conflict between the two since then has been limited in comparison.
Israel has taken preemptive action against potential threats before, including against Syria. The Israeli air force conducted a raid — code named Operation Orchard — in 2007, striking a suspected Syrian nuclear facility. Syrian officials never confirmed the raid, but it is widely believed they never sought to engage in nuclear activity again after it occurred.
Israel’s alleged move also comes as the country’s ties with Turkey have grown particularly close. A Turkish official announced Tuesday that the two countries were close to finalizing a deal on “all issues” regarding Israel’s killing of ten Turkish nationals when the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara attempted to break through an Israeli blockade on Gaza in 2010. The incident created a significant rift between the two countries.
Turkey restored full relations with Israel in December 2015, around the same time its troubles with Russia and Syria were growing. Additionally, Israel has been exploring potential drilling of offshore natural gas, and Turkey could make a future customer.
If Israel’s strike is confirmed, it would be another of many Middle Eastern states that have involved themselves in the growing quagmire that is the Syrian civil war.
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