- Israel could kill Syrian President Bashar Assad if the creep of Iranian military forces and missiles through the Levant towards Israel’s borders don’t stop, a security cabinet minister said on Monday.
- The statement follows reports that Iran is preparing a massive missile attack against Israel on Sunday.
- Iran has an estimated 70,000 fighters in Syria and likely more than 100,000 missiles and rockets in the region, and the US says it’s preparing to attack Israel at some point.
- But Israel is allied with the US, and Syria is allied with Russia. If the two sides went to war, it could spiral into a massive conflict.
Israel could kill Syrian President Bashar Assad if the creep of Iranian military forces and missiles through the Levant towards Israel’s borders don’t stop, a security cabinet minister said on Monday.
“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” Yuval Steinitz told Israeli news site Ynetnews.
The statement follows reports that Iran is preparing a massive missile attack against Israel on Sunday.
Iran has an estimated 70,000 fighters in Syria and likely more than 100,000 missiles and rockets in the region. The US holds that Iran is preparing to attack the Jewish state and establish a land bridge from Tehran to Lebanon, where Hezbollah, an Israeli and US-designated terror organisation, recently strengthened its position in parliament.
Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran’s dominance to spread to its borders, and has carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Syria to halt its progress. Israel considers Hezbollah an extension of Iran, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state.
But most recently, the airstrikes threatened to escalate. After an armed Iranian drone reportedly flew into Israeli airspace, Israel shot down the drone and responded with a massive storm of strikes that it says took out half of Syria’s air defences.
Later, a mysterious airstrike reportedly killed seven Iranian military servicemen at the base where the Iranian drone took off. Another strike appeared to take out a munitions depot in a massive explosion that registered as an earthquake. Israel is suspected to be behind both attacks.
“The month of May will be very volatile,” former Israeli Defence Force intelligence chief Amos Yadlin previously told JPost, implying Iran would want revenge for the humiliating strikes.
Israel vs. Syria may turn into Russia vs. US
Iran has long supported Syria’s Assad in his seven-year long civil war, but Assad has another, more powerful backer: Russia.
Russian air defences protect Assad in Damascus, though they have never activated in response to Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria, despite Syrian military assets sometimes being hit in the strikes.
But, if Israel directly tries to kill Syria’s president, Russia, which has staked its credibility in the region on its ability to defend Assad, may have to respond. Israel has a very capable air force and stealth jets at its disposal, but Russia’s air defences in Syria are rumoured to be among the best.
Additionally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a recent trip to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the US was “deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East.”
“The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself,” Pompeo added.
Syria has long been fraught geopolitically, and the US and Russia have frequently found themselves backing different sides in the fight. So far no serious conflict has taken place between the two Cold War foes that control most of the world’s nuclear weapons.
But while the US and Russia have proven cautious about engaging each other, Israel has shown itself very willing to bomb any target it considers a threat.
Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
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