After seismic shocks registered a 2.6 magnitude earthquake in Syria late Sunday into early Monday, Syrian media reported that “enemy” rocket attacks hit multiple military bases. London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly found that 26 pro-Assad regime fighters were killed in the strikes, most of them Iranian.
While an “increasing number of media organizations associated with the Syrian regime and Hezbollah” are suggesting Israel may have been responsible for the strike, neither the attacked nor the attacker are providing clear answers.
That is, according to The Times of Israel, which played up the scale of the strike – going so far as to suggest this strike represents more than just a tip toe towards all-out war between Israel and Iran. This was a big step forward.
“First and foremost was the sheer power of the attack. The pictures and the sounds, and the large number of casualties, point to an incident of larger scale than those to which we have become accustomed. We are not talking here about just another strike on another Hezbollah convoy, but rather what would appear to be a new step in what is now the almost-open warfare being waged between Iran and Israel in recent weeks on Syrian territory.”
The report also noted that the strike came just after America’s newly-minted Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the region. US President Donald Trump also spoke with his Israeli counterpart, according to reports late Sunday night.
Pompeo, along with Trump’s recently appointed national security advisor, John Bolton, are known for their hardline stance on Iran policy. Prior to his current role, Bolton – who was a cheerleader for the US invasion of Iraq – has consistently advocated for a policy of regime change in Iran.
Observers were already bracing for possible retaliation for a previous Israeli strike on a base located in Syria which killed seven Iranians. Russia outed Israel as the attacker in that case, prompting threats of retaliation from Iran should any further strike occur. Analysis from Haaretz on Monday said that while Israel waited for a response, war was not a foregone conclusion. It added that there may be a lull in flare-ups ahead of Lebanon’s May 6 election and Trump’s May 12 decision on the Iran nuclear deal. The author of the article, which was published on Monday, apparently didn’t get the memo Sunday night.