As a skier in a blue jacket and red pants slalomed down Mount Hermon in northern Israel, two vapor trails and a blast lit the sky. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system had intercepted a medium-range surface-to-surface missile that Iran had fired into the popular ski resort from Syria.
The missile had been fired from a location where Syria had promised not to host Iranian military personnel.
Israel contends the missile aimed at Israeli civilians was a message from Syria and Iran: A warning to stop thwarting Iran’s military buildup in Syria.
“The Iranian [rocket] launch took place after very lengthy preparations and a decision-making process that concluded months ago,” Israeli Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said in a statement. “Syria is paying a heavy price for its approval of the operation.”
Israeli military officials said the attack was “clear proof of the intention behind the attempts to establish Iran in Syria,” adding that Iran’s presence there poses serious danger to the State of Israel and regional stability.
Israel retaliated with air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, including “Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons,” reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Syrian military fired dozens of missiles during the retaliatory attack despite Israel’s warning not to harm IDF fighter jets.
Israel’s targets included “Damascus International Airport and a line of Syrian military air defense batteries, including some Russian-made installations,” according to a report in Time magazine.
Twenty one deaths were reported by Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “There are 15 foreigners among the dead, including 12 from the Iranian forces,” Rahman added, saying, “Six Syrians from the regime were also killed.”
The Times of Israel called it the deadliest Israeli strike against Iran in Syria, but Israel's i24 News reported that Iran denied “any of its forces were killed.”
War of Words
Two days after the exchange, Russia told Israel to stop its “arbitrary” air strikes in Syria, launching a war of words between Iran and Israel.
“Iran officially denies having troops in Syria beyond a small number of advisers – a claim that is widely disregarded among Western intelligence officials,” The Times of Israel reported.
The report further quoted the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, as declaring, “If Israel takes any action to wage a war against us, it will definitely lead to its own elimination and freeing occupied territories.”
He added that Iran is pursuing a strategy to “eradicate the Zionist regime from the political geography of the world.”
In response, Netanyahu declared the Israeli Air Force had “delivered powerful blows” to Iran and said, “We are operating both against Iran and against the Syrian forces that are abetting the Iranian aggression. We will strike at anyone who tries to harm us,” he said.
Preventing Further Escalation
“Who or what can prevent further escalation?” asked correspondent Joshua Mitnick in an opinion article published in The Christian Science Monitor. In the article, he suggests that the upcoming U.S. withdrawal from Syria will leave only Russia as the “sole power in the region with enough weight to throw around to stop Israel and Iran from turning Syria into a gridiron.”
Calling Russia and Israel “frenemies,” Mitnick conceded that Israel is reluctant to trust Russia with its security, especially given Russia’s alliance with the Syrian government, which in turn is working with Iran to eliminate Israel.
Mitnick named Europe as another possible intermediary. Germany has in the past facilitated prisoner swaps between Israel and Iran’s proxy Hezbollah. And just last week, Germany banned Iranian airline Mahan Air from its airports.
Germany’s decision was praised by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The airline transports weapons and fighters across the Middle East, supporting the Iranian regime’s destructive ambitions around the region. We encourage all our allies to follow suit.”
Please pray with us for God’s protection for Israel as Iran and Syria plot her elimination. Also pray for the protection of the Jewish people, civilians and military personnel alike, targeted by Iran and its proxies with terrorist attacks and bold military operations.