Israel steps up attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, as Tehran awaits Biden administration

Israel steps up attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, as Tehran awaits Biden administration
Israel has launched three rounds of strikes in Syria over the past ten days.
3 min read
11 January, 2021
Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes on Iran-linked military positions in Syria [Getty]
Israel appears to be stepping up attacks on Iranian targets in Syria as President Donald Trump sees out his final days in office, with the latest rounds of strikes hitting suspected Hezbollah targets and Syria's military complex.

Israel has carried out at least three strikes in Syria over the past ten days, hitting southern Syria, the Golan and Damascus, including the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre.

Israeli media have suggested that the military is taking advantage of "Iranian tactical weakness" to strike at Tehran's military units in Syria and allied proxies such as Hezbollah.

Writing for Haaretz, journalist Amos Harel pointed out that the Israeli recent strikes in Syria contrast starkly with the usual average of one attack every three weeks.

He said the intensified air campaign by Israel aims at exploiting the "tactical weakness and strategic confusion" of Iran, as Tehran awaits the new Joe Biden administration in Washington.

Analysts believe that Iran might seek to reset ties with Washington under Biden and will not want to antagonise relations with the US or Israel prior to this.

Despite Tehran's threats to avenge the US killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani around the one year anniversary of his death last week, there were no attacks organised by Tehran.

Read more: Syria Insight: What to expect under the Biden administration

Israel is still wary of strikes from Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, or Yemen, having recently moved its Iron Dome air defences to the southern city of Eilat.

This was allegedly in response to increased Iranian activities in the Yemen with the Houthi rebels, according to Haaretz.

Meanwhile, Soleimani's replacement in the Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, is said to be struggling to maintain Iran's expeditionary force.

Iran has been engaged in troop movements in eastern Syria, while local monitoring site DeirEzzor24 reported the withdrawal of Hezbollah units from the border city of Albukamal last week.

Iran has expanded its military presence in Syria since it intervened to help bolster the Assad regime after a revolt against his rule in 2011.

As well as providing thousands of Shia Muslim fighters to assist the regime, Tehran has also built military bases and weapons factories across Syria.

Israel deems this Iranian military presence as a direct threat to its security and has carried out a low-profile but extensive air campaign against these units.

Targeting Syrian air defences has also enabled Israel to operate without hinderance over the country and send a message to Assad that he should distance himself from his foreign backer.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi claimed last month that its strikes had "slowed down Iran's entrenchment in Syria".

"We have struck over 500 targets this year, on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions," Kochavi said, according to Israeli media.

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