Israel Launches Strikes on Syrian Targets as Tensions in Region Mount
By Khaleda Rahman,2023-04-09
The Israeli military said on Sunday its forces have struck targets in Syria after six rockets were launched from Syrian territory towards Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) initially said it responded with artillery fire and drone strikes into the area in Syria from where the rockets were fired. However in a later statement, the military said fighter jets attacked Syrian army sites, including a military compound of Syria's 4th Division as well as radar and artillery posts.
The IDF "considers the State of Syria responsible for everything that happens on its territory and it will not allow any attempts to violate Israel's sovereignty," its statement said on its website.
The current violence erupted after Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque earlier in the week, firing tear gas and stun grenades to disperse Palestinian Muslims who were marking the holy month of Ramadan. This year, the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover coincides with Ramadan.
Israel said its operations were aimed at dispersing groups of what police called extremists that had barricaded themselves inside the mosque. However, violent scenes from the raid, including videos from inside the mosque showing police beating worshippers, sparked unrest in Jerusalem and outrage beyond.
It prompted militants in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to fire a heavy barrage of rockets into Israel. In retaliation, Israeli warplanes hit sites allegedly linked to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza and southern Lebanon.
According to Reuters on Sunday, the Syrian defense ministry said its air defenses had responded to the Israeli attacks and intercepted some missiles. The ministry added that no casualties had been reported, with only material damage caused by the strikes.
Syrian state media also reported explosions near Damascus, Syria's capital.
The Israeli military said in the first barrage on Saturday, one rocket landed in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Jordan's military reported that fragments of another destroyed missile fell into Jordanian territory near the Syrian border.
The Israeli military, according to the AP, said that in the second barrage, launched early Sunday, two of the rockets crossed the border into Israel—one was intercepted and the second landed in an open area.
A Damascus-based Palestinian group loyal to the Syrian regime claimed responsibility for launching the three missiles on Saturday, the AP reported, citing a report from Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV.
Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Al-Quds Brigade, which the AP noted is different than the larger Palestinian Islamic Jihad's armed wing with a similar name, as saying it fired the rockets in retaliation for the raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque. The compound in Jerusalem's Old City is the third holiest site in Islam, and the holiest site for Jews, who know it as Temple Mount.
Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian and director of the Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, told Newsweek on Sunday: "The most important fact, which most media outlets have missed, is to ask what would have happened had the present escalation not occurred? And the answer is intensification of the anti-government demonstrations inside Israel , increase in the brain drain, and transfer of investment outside of Israel and more elite units' reserve soldiers refusing to show for duty. All this would have been accompanied by the growing isolation of Israel in the international arena, including increased tension in American Israeli relations."
Pappé said that given the convergence of Ramdan, Passover, and Easter, "it was clear that a brutal invasion of Haram al-Sharif and the Al-Aqsa mosque, would create a united front against Israel, which might justify, retreat from the reform, or re-embracing the consensus by those opposed to the reform. Nothing like a small war to try and cement unity in the Israeli Jewish society."
He added: "With the end of Ramadan, this will be over; but this time it is possible that the current protest will increase, and either there will be a solution for Netanyahu's legal problems, or Israeli Jewish society will deteriorate into a civil war, one that if the Palestinians could resist from taking part in it, might change the balance of power in Israel/Palestine after 75 years of total Israeli domination."
Update 4/9/2023, 10:54 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Ilan Pappé.