Israel and Syria Air Power: Endless Cycle or Greater Success?

Recent reports in the Syrian media have said that Israel carried out another round of airstrikes in the Homs field on Monday. Video posted online, allegedly from Syria, claimed to show intercepted Israeli missiles in the sky. Does that mean the attack was unsuccessful or partially successful? Reports from Syria accuse Israel of several rounds of airstrikes in recent weeks. On October 30, the missiles hit Syria in a rare midday strike near Damascus.

What do we know based on the Syrian and foreign reports? The attack is late. October reportedly hit near Dimas and Al-Mezzah air base and may have hit air defense sites. Ynet reports that “a noon attack on the outskirts of Damascus that was attributed to Israel by the Syrian army targeted a shipment of advanced weapons destined for Hezbollah as it headed for the Syrian-Lebanon border, Syrian media reported on Saturday night”. bound for Hezbollah may have been hit. At the time, the media said that a Tammuz surface-to-surface missile had been used to attack a convoy.

The Alma Research and Education Center had said on October 24 that Iranian UAVs may have been transported to Sharyat airport. Among those counting the number of suspected air strikes is the third attack in two weeks or the seventh in two and a half weeks. These include a November 2 strike with surface-to-surface missiles that struck near Rif Damishq and Ad Dhamir. On October 24 there were also reports of an air strike near Quneitra. There were also strikes near Damascus in early September.

As usual, the death toll in air or missile strikes is low. In mid-October, France24 said that four fighters were killed in Syria. Those attacks also activated Syrian air defenses. Two were reportedly killed in an airstrike near the T-4 airbase on October 8.

The map of these incidents looks like this: Ad-Dhamir is 45 km northeast of Damascus. Dimas is located about 20 km northwest of Damascus. Mezzeh Airport is southwest of downtown Damascus. From there, it is about 180 km northeast of the T-4 base. From the T-4, it is about 190 km to Tartus on the coast. As such, the areas under recent attack include much of the area of ​​Syria under government control today. The exception is the Euphrates Valley from Albukamal to Deir Ezzor. That area has been the site of reported airstrikes in the past. Starting in the summer of 2018, when a Kataib Hezbollah headquarters in Albukamal was hit with an attack, there was further reference to the Iranian role in the landscape between Albukamal and Deir Ezzor. Iran built its Imam Ali base near Albukamal. Reports of expanded airstrikes in this area included reports in September 2019 and August 2020 and January 2021.

Missile fire is observed over Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019 (Credit: SANA / HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Reuters reported in April 2021 on “Israel escalates air war in Syria against Iranian invasion.” However, it is unclear whether the airstrikes are severely reducing Iran’s entrenchment. Israel has launched what it calls an interwar campaign, aimed at stopping Iran’s entrenchment. Thousands of airstrikes have been carried out in Syria. These can be against convoys to Hezbollah, as Israeli officials pointed out in 2017, or against an air defense system that Iran allegedly flew to T-4 in April 2018, as Ynet reported at the time. They can be against precision guided munitions, drones, or other munitions.

Iran has tried to move drones to Syria to threaten Israel. An incident in February 2018 and May 2021 showed that Iran could fly drones from Syria into Israeli airspace. In the fall of 2019, Hezbollah moved drones to an area near the Golan before an airstrike destroyed the Hezbollah cell. In October, Iran used drones to attack the American garrison in Tanf. Iran is also likely to have been behind militias targeting Iraq’s prime minister with drones this week. Iran used drones to attack a ship off Oman in July.

As such, the threat from Iranian drones is very real, as are concerns that Iran will move air defenses to Syria. This is in addition to rocket traffic, bases, entrenchment, and militias. This is in addition to the fact that Iran has flown ballistic missiles to Iraq according to the 2019 and 2020 reports. It remains to be seen whether recent reports of airstrikes have pushed back this Iranian project. The partnership between the United States and Israel is key to regional security needs in tackling Iranian plans.

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