Israel’s intelligence minister has claimed that his country is now in “open conflict” with arch rival Iran, and that Jerusalem would not hold back militarily if the Islamic republican continued efforts to widen its footprint in neighboring Syria.
His comments come on the heels of a major air assault on Iranian targets near Damascus earlier this week following Israel’s public acknowledgement of the attack. In the past, the Jewish state has never officially made such acknowledgements when its forces have struck targets inside Syria
“The policy has changed,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said Monday regarding the reversal . “This is an open confrontation with Iran. When we need to step it up, we’ll step it up.”
“This was a clear message to the Iranians,” Katz noted further. “We won’t allow their entrenchment in Syria.”
The strikes came after Iran’s Quds Force, an expeditionary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, launched a missile at the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, reports noted.
For the past few years, Iran has been steadily increasing its presence in Syria, with the approval of President Bashar al-Assad, in exchange for assisting his forces with suppressing a civil war that has dragged on for some seven years.
As the Iranian presence grew, Israel increased its attacks, vowing to prevent Tehran from building a substantial bridgehead it could use to attack Israel, in conjunction with its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, the former of which has a heavy presence in Lebanon.
The admission that Israel is now in an open conflict with Iran likely serves several purposes, analysts said. First, it puts Iran and Syria on notice, publicly, that the Jewish state will no longer tolerate Iran’s buildup on its border. And two, the open declaration will help prepare the Israeli people for what may come next.
The public warning may also have been aimed at Assad’s major benefactor, Russia. The Israel Defense Forces said the missile targeting the Golan Heights “was fired by Iranians out of Damascus within an area that we were promised that there would be no Iranians.”
An IDF spokesperson noted further that “the relevant parties” had assured Jerusalem that the area would be free of Iranian troops — a back-handed reference to Moscow.
All said, however, Iran appears to be fully vested in Syria. Tehran has mobilized tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia fighters and Hezbollah fighters who answer to Iranian commanders, mostly because Assad’s forces are impotent and Russia is mainly supplying air power.
Iran seeks to open a wide front against Israel by building a land bridge from its Afghan border to the Mediterranean Sea as a means of developing a permanent influential military and political presence throughout the Middle East.
The Israelis, meanwhile, have vowed to prevent that from happening, even if means full-scale war — a conflict that could spill into Lebanon, where Hezbollah fighters have amassed some 130,000 rockets and missiles. Because Israeli is such a small country, it would need to strike those missile sites quickly and with overwhelming force in order to protect itself.
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