Israel struck multiple targets inside Syria on Wednesday, an operation its military quickly acknowledged, a departure from the usual ambiguity that surrounds Israeli strikes on Syria. The move is seen as a signal that Israel will continue attacks across its borders even as its staunch ally President Trump is expected to be leaving office.
Israel said it hit a wide range of Iranian and Syrian targets. The Syrian government said three of its soldiers were killed. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 people were killed in the strikes, including five members of Iran’s Quds Force, but those numbers are unconfirmed.
In a rare move, the IDF released footage of missiles hitting three of the eight targets Israel said it hit. “The moment our fighter jets struck military targets belonging to the Iranian Quds Force & Syrian Armed Forces in Syria last night hours after we exposed an Iranian-led Syrian attack,” the IDF wrote on Twitter.
The airstrikes came after Israel claimed to find explosives planted in the Golan Heights, a territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967 and has occupied ever since. The Israelis claim Iran was responsible for planting the bombs. Israel has regularly attacked what it says are Iranian-linked targets in Syria for years.
The wide-ranging Israeli operation could be a message to the incoming Biden administration. “Biden has to ask himself, exactly what is Iran after in Syria?” Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said after the strikes.
The strikes come at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Iran. The Trump administration is ratcheting up the pressure on Iran as much as possible before January 20th. Reports said President Trump even explored options to attack Iranian nuclear sites during an Oval Office meeting last week but was talked out of pulling the trigger.
Some fear Israel could take advantage of the tensions and try to spark a major military confrontation with Iran. The Israelis, the Trump administration, and many Gulf states hope Biden does not rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. A military confrontation with Iran could tie Biden’s hands and make it impossible to revive the deal.