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Israel Responds With Force To Iranian Plans To Deploy Air Defense Systems In Syria

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Late on July 20, the Israeli Air Force carried out a new wave of airstrikes on the southern countryside of the Syrian capital of Damascus. According to Syria’s state-run news agency SANA, Israeli warplanes launched missiles from the airspace over the Golan Heights at 21.48 local time. It claimed that a large portion of the missiles were shot down by the Syrian Air Defense Forces, but several hit their targets. At least 7 Syrian personnel were reportedly injured in the attack.

A day earlier, on July 19, Israeli warplanes and reconnaissance drones conducted extensive flights in Lebanese airspace, near the Syrian border. Apparently, these flights were conducted in the framework of the preparations for the July 20 attack.

In early July, the Iranian leadership publicly declared that it is going to contribute efforts to increase the Syrian air defense capabilities. Many observers, including Israeli ones, saw this statement as a signal of the possible supply of Iranian air defense systems to Syria. While the possibility of such supplies still remains in question, this was enough to provoke a further Israeli military action in Syria.

Syrian sources speculate that Israel also increased its sabotage activity in southern Syria. In the previous years of the conflict, the Israeli leadership already demonstrated that it’s ready to support any terrorist group that opposes Damascus. This approach extended to the situation when the Israeli military was turning a blind eye to the presence of ISIS terrorists in close proximity to Israeli positions on the Golan Heights.

At the same time, Israel reacted adversely to the Syrian anti-terrorism efforts in the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra. In the last few months, a series of assassinations and attacks targeted Syrian government forces in this area. Pro-government sources claim that these attacks became possible thanks to Israeli support to the remaining anti-government groups in the reigon.

Early on July 21, Idlib militants shelled positions of the Syrian Army near the village of Dadikh. Pro-militant sources claimed that the attack was a response to regular ceasefire violations by the Assad regime. Regular joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the M4 highway in southern Idlib seem to be not enough to stabilize the area. Furthermore, these patrols become targets of various attacks and provocations on a regular basis.

If the situation remains same in the future, a new open military confrontation in this part of Syria will become inevitable. At the same time, a political solution to the tensions is not possible as along as the region is in fact controlled by al-Qaeda-linked factions, first of all Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

In eastern Syria, the US-baked Syrian Democratic Forces continue their anti-ISIS raids in various desert villages. Pro-Kurdish sources claim that these raids allowed to decrease notably the ISIS activity on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Nonetheless, the terrorist group still has a wide network of cells in this part of Syria. Thus, the resumption of ISIS attacks is just a matter of time.

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