Jessica Hagstrom

According to U.S. Officials, an Israeli airstrike launched on the Syrian-Lebanese border on Wednesday was targeting a convoy suspected of carrying weapons to Hezbollah. The shipment is believed to have held Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles which could enable the militants to shoot down Israeli aircraft.

Syrian officials, however, claim that Israeli fighter jets directly targeted a military research facility in Jamaraya, northwest of Damascus.  State-run media reported that the attack killed two workers and wounded five others.  Syria has formally complained to the United Nations about the attack and, along with ally Iran, is threatening to retaliate against Israel.  Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali stated that Damascus “has the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation.” Both Iran Israel Syria airstrike resized 600and Russia have strongly condemned the attack, which Hezbollah called a “barbaric aggression.” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called the attacks a clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty. Iran’s deputy foreign minister said that the airstrike “will have serious consequences for Tel Aviv.” Israel has not yet commented on the attack.

The MSA Research and Intelligence Analysis Team has been following this situation closely, and has identified the following implications:

  • While Israel has remained relatively silent on the Syrian Civil War, possibly fearing the unknown more than the known in Damascus, Tel Aviv seems to be sending a strong message to President Bashar al Assad and, perhaps, Iran.
  • The SA-17 “Grizzly” air defense system is a potent medium-range weapon against strategic and tactical aircraft, helicopters and cruise missiles up to 24,000 feet in height with a range of 30 miles. Israel does not want this system near its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria to ensure Israeli Air Force air supremacy in the region in the event that it will have to resort to aerial strikes to address the maturing Iranian nuclear weapons program.
  • Israel may be signaling that it will not allow the Syrian regime to ship its conventional and/or chemical weapons arsenals to Hezbollah as the Syrian rebels continue to progress towards their goal of ousting Assad. 
  • While Syria and Iran have indicated that they may retaliate for Israel’s attack on the convoy, direct retaliation by either party is unlikely. The Syrian regime is in a mighty struggle against Sunni and Kurdish rebels, which it is apparently losing. They will not risk additional Israeli attacks, which could hasten their ouster. Also, Iran is struggling with economic sanctions levied due to their nuclear weapons program and is unlikely to do anything to inflame their predicament. An Iranian Qods Force attack against Israeli citizens or interests in some unexpected parts of the world is not out of the question, as attacks have been executed in the past few years.

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(Image Credit: the guardian)