Israeli forces hit targets within Syria. Damascus calls the violation a declaration of war.
For the second time in two days elements of the Israeli Air Force have struck targets close to the Syrian capital Damascus. The strikes were audible to the civilian population in the ancient city.
The targets were believed to have been Syrian Army research centres, although it is not known if these were the extent of the strikes, or if there were more to follow. Syria’s deputy Foreign Minister has called the attacks a declaration of war, although there are no indications that the Syrian military, already heavily engaged in counter offensives against rebels, have started to deploy units in readiness for a counter strike against Israel.
This is not the first time Israel has attached targets within Syria. In 2008 a suspected nuclear research site in Syria was struck, and Israel recently attacked what it claimed were arms conveys en route to supply Islamists groups operating in Lebanon. Israel has also attacked site in Gaza and Sinai, most notably tunnels used by the Hamas authorities to circumvent the blockade jointly imposed by Egypt and Israel.
This paper suspects that the targets struck yesterday and today were involved in the manufacture and stockpiling of chemical weapons. Both regime and rebel forces have accused the other of deploying the banned weapons. Soil samples tested by the British Porter Down Facility confirmed that sarin nerve agent have been used in recent weeks. Symptoms displayed by victims seem to lend weight to the accusations. The US government had previously called the proven deployment of chemical weapons to be a ‘red line’ point, at wish the US would be forced to act. The White House has given no hint as to whether or not it plans to intervene, instead saying that it is awaiting its own confirmation.
For Israel, the conflict in Syria is an especially difficult security dilemma. Its northern front has been its quietest for forty years. Assad had made no moves to provoke Israel, nor has there been any concerted effort to reclaim the Golan Heights. Israel has no love for Assad, but are keenly aware that there is no clear successor to the Ba’athist regime. If the government in Damascus collapses, Syria would turn into a supersized Lebanon, awash with weapons and foreign islamists and jihadists.
The strikes in Syria are most likely an attempt to destroy parts of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal before they fall into rebel hands. Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered Iron Dome anti missile batteries be deployed in Israel’s north, but is still planning to carry out his trip to China.