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The war in Syria continues to heat up despite being overshadowed by the conflict in Ukraine. The most recent escalation in the war was an Israeli attack that reportedly triggered Russia.
The attack, which took place on May 13, targeted complex of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) located near the town of Masyaf in the western countryside of Hama. The SSRC is Syria’s main military research and development institution.
Israeli fighter jets launched the attack from international airspace off the Syrian coast. The jets fired 22 guided missiles during the attack, at least 16 of which were intercepted by Syrian air defenses. A drone which also took part in the attack was shot down.
The Israeli attack claimed the lives of three air defense servicemen and two civilian workers of the SSRC. Two soldiers were also wounded as a result of the attack along with five civilians, including a little girl.
In a report on May 16, Israel’s Channel 13 said that Russian forces opened fire on Israeli fighter jets from an S-300 air-defense missile system during the attack.
According to the report, Syrian S-300 batteries commanded by the Russian military opened fire as the Israeli fighter jets were flying on their way back. The report alleged that the S-300 radar did not lock onto the fighter jets and thus did not present a serious threat to them.
The report comes amid deterioration in relations between Israel and Russia. Recently, Israel became more critical of the Russian operation in Ukraine and began providing non-lethal equipment to Kiev forces. The alleged S-300 launch was seen as a Russian signal to Israel that it was changing its policy when it comes to attacks on Syria.
The US-led coalition also had its share of escalation in Syria. On May 16, an indirect fire attack targeted a base of the coalition near the town of al-Shaddadi in the southern countryside of al-Hasakah in the northeastern region.
Several projectiles targeted the base, which is located within a large oil and gas field. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency, one of the projectiles hit the base’s main airfield, while another hit a drone maintenance facility. No casualties were reported as a result of the attack.
Iranian-backed Syrian and Iraqi forces were unofficially blamed for previous attacks on US-led coalition forces in northeastern Syria. However, there is still no evidence linking them to the alleged attack on al-Shaddadi base.
Meanwhile in central Syria, Syrian government forces and the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) continue their operations against ISIS cells.
As of May 15, at least 236 Russian airstrikes have hit personnel, equipment and hideouts of ISIS in central Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The VKS’s intense operations have forced ISIS cells in central Syria to lay low. However, the terrorists may resume their attacks very soon.
While the terrorist group was not that active in the central region, it did carry out attacks near the Syrian capital, Damascus.
On May 14, a Syrian warrant officer was killed and a soldier was wounded when their vehicle was ambushed near the frontline with the US-occupied area of al-Tanf to the east of Damascus by militants believed to be members of the terrorist group.
On May 16, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two government fighters and wounded another in the town of Der Khabeyah, which is located some 20 kilometers to the southwest of Damascus city center.
ISIS’s news agency, Amaq, claimed that the attack targeted two vehicles of government forces. Both vehicles struck with improvised explosive devices.
Despite strict measures by the Syrian military, intelligence and security forces, ISIS cells are apparently still operating in Damascus countryside.
Meanwhile in the northwestern region of Greater Idlib, the situation remains unstable due to the repeated attacks by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its Turkish-backed allies.
On May 18, a reconnaissance aircraft of the VKS, reportedly a Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, was targeted with a missile while flying on a mission over the region. The missile failed to hit the aircraft.
While some Syrian opposition activists claimed that the missile was launched from a position of the Turkish Armed Forces, others said that it was fired by militants from the al-Fateh al-Mubeen Operations Room, which is led HTS.
The situation in Greater Idlib and the rest of Syria will not likely stabilize any time soon, especially with the current halt in the political process. In fact, Syria could experience major confrontations fueled by the West and its allies once the conflict in Ukraine is over.