The Israeli Defense Forces has launched dozens of assaults on Iranian-linked targets in Syria in recent years to prevent Tehran from gaining a stable foothold in the country.
Syria reported a series of Israeli airstrikes on Feb. 28 targeting Iranian assets near Damascus. The strikes were likely a retaliatory measure following an explosion last week that hit an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman, which Israeli officials believe Iran executed. Although no one was injured in the attack, the vessel was damaged and forced to head towards the nearest port.
Israeli news sources reported the strikes in Syria targeted Iranian linked assets. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based organization, announced that the airstrikes targeted sites in an area close to Damascus that Iran’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) controlled. This air assault followed closely behind a series of strikes the U.S. launched in Syria on Feb. 15 that were also described as a retaliatory measure following a rocket attack in Iraq that killed an American civilian contractor.
The Israeli Defense Forces has launched dozens of assaults on Iranian-linked targets in Syria in recent years to prevent Tehran from gaining a stable foothold in the country. Many of the IDF attacks are retaliatory and preventative. In 2017, a military site in Syria filled with chemical weapons and Iranian bombs were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. In 2019, Israel launched airstrikes in Syria in retaliation to a surface-to-surface missile that endangered civilian areas in the Golan Heights area. In 2020, IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Aviv Kochavi reported that Israel “had struck more than 500 targets during 2020 on all fronts, including clandestine missions.”
In recent months, tensions between Iran and the West have escalated sharply. Tehran has been building up its nuclear program in breach of the 2015 nuclear agreement as it tries to gain leverage in expected upcoming negotiations with the Biden administration. IRGC-linked proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen have increased attacks against the United States and its allies across the region. Incessant rocket attacks perpetuated by Iranian-backed militias have rattled Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. embassy and diplomatic sites, intensifying domestic turmoil in Iraq. In Yemen, the Iranian-linked Houthi rebels consistently carry out terrorist attacks targeting civilians on the ground and in Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah, Iran’s largest export which functions in Lebanon, has targeted Israel’s Golan Heights region. In fact, the explosive devices the proxy placed near the Israeli-Syrian border were discovered by the IDF in August and November.