Israel Strikes Back At Iran
The reported deaths of four Iranian “military advisers” killed in an airstrike in Syria spotlight Tehran’s meddling in Syria. The move is a clear attempt to extend its fundamentalist tentacles to Israel’s north and exert hegemony across the region.
The strikes targeting the T-4 airbase outside Palmyra in central Syria have been widely attributed to Israel, with U.S. officials confirming the Jewish state carried out the hits and informed Washington in advance. Tellingly, Kremlin officials protested that they were not forewarned about the strikes. According to some reports, Russia has a presence at the T-4 base.
Israel has a longstanding policy of refusing to comment on alleged military actions beyond the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Still, Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused the Bashar al-Assad regime of committing “crimes against humanity” with a deadly chemical weapons attack on rebel-held Douma over the weekend.
It is instructive to focus on the presence of the four Iranian “military advisers” that Tehran confirmed were killed in the bombing raid. The Iranian death toll may actually be higher. Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified the majority of the reported 14 casualties as either Iranians or fighters from local militias backed by Iran.
Underscoring the sensitivities of the players involved, the Washington Post, citing Iran’s Fars News Agency, reported that aside from Iranians, the T-4 base also houses Russians and members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group.
It is unclear what was happening at the T-4 air base and why the site was chosen as a target. Israel in the past reportedly carried out bombing raids of military sites used to store or produce rockets and missiles.
Iran and Russia are allies of Assad, with Iran evidencing some control over Syrian military installations. Russia, the Iranian military and Hezbollah members each have been aiding Assad’s fight against the rebels in various capacities.
In February, following strategic victories over the Islamic State and Turkey-backed rebels inside Syria, Iran was brazen enough to send an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into Israeli territory before it was quickly shot down by the Israeli military. Aviation analysts described the Iranian drone as a new stealthy model similar in design to the American RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone that Iran claimed to have shot down and seized in December 2011. It’s likely the Iranians were testing the model’s ability to penetrate Israeli airspace undetected, making Israel’s discovery of the UAV a remarkable display of regional military superiority.
Iran already exerts major influence over Lebanon and has maintained a fluctuating but always present strategic relationship with Hamas and the other jihadist actors in the Palestinian terror arena. Iran-backed militias routinely operate in Syrian communities near Israel’s Golan Heights. In allegedly striking an Iran-linked target in Syria, Israel may be sending a message to the Iranians and to the international community that it will not stand idly by as Iran consolidates power in Syria with Assad’s recent victories over the rebels.
Hamas Is At Fault
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says that eight Palestinians were killed and some 1,070 were wounded during last Friday’s border clashes. Hamas is singlehandedly responsible for each of those deaths and injuries and all future casualties in their continued mayhem targeting Israel’s borders.
The actual casualty count cannot be immediately verified. The Hamas terrorist organization has a history of distorting casualty numbers. It is not immediately clear how many of the dead and wounded are civilians, or terrorists using civilians as cover to attack Israeli troops or breach the Israel-Gaza border barrier. The riots are taking place along a border that is about 1.2 miles from the closest Israeli community.
These are not peaceful protests. We are witnessing a violent campaign entirely orchestrated by Hamas, which has been cynically utilizing Palestinian protesters to stir up tension along the Gaza border out of sheer desperation over its increasingly fragile predicament. Embedded with the protesters are professional jihadists from major Palestinian terrorist factions carrying out attacks at the border. Hamas is placing the lives of the protesters in danger, involving them in an organized militant assault against the border of a sovereign nation that must protect itself.
Just like the deadly chaos two weeks ago, Hamas organized this past Friday’s mass riots under the banner of the “March of Return”, seeking to escalate protests the next few weeks leading up to Israel’s 70th Anniversary celebrations later this month and the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.
Hamas has been encouraging the violence, announcing on Thursday it will compensate those injured or the families of those killed, ranging from $200 to $500 per injury to $3,000 for a death. Hamas has also been instructing all protesters to mask their faces.
There can be no question that terrorists are operating among the throngs of civilian rioters. Indeed, Hamas itself provided evidence that it is cynically utilizing the cover of civilian demonstrators to attack Israel, thus drawing Israeli fire toward the crowds. Last Saturday, Hamas released photographs of five members of its so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades jihad unit, announcing they were among the 16 Gazans reportedly killed one day earlier, during the first border riots.
Hamas stated that the five jihadists were killed while taking part “in popular events side-by-side with their people.” In other words, the terrorists were killed most likely attempting to carry out attacks while surrounded by civilian protesters. The IDF said the Hamas members disguised themselves among the civilian protesters.
Of the 16 Palestinians reportedly killed during last week’s border riots, the IDF says that 10 were members of Palestinian terrorist groups, publishing their names and jihadist positions. (An updated Hamas casualty count claims 23 Palestinians were killed in Gaza the past week, mostly last Friday).