An Israeli air force F-15 fighter jet. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen

The temperature in a great power conflict playing out on Syrian soil rose a few degrees over the weekend, culminating in a strike on a Syrian air base which reportedly killed more than a dozen people, including four Iranians.

Russia and the Assad regime blamed Israel for the strike, citing the trajectory of at least 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a report from UPI. The government-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency said that eight of the missiles were shot down.

“A military source said that Israeli F-15 fighter jets on Monday dawn fired several missiles from the Lebanese airspace on the T-4 Airport in Homs eastern countryside as the Syrian air defenses intercepted them and downed a number of them,” the report from SANA read.

UPI said that SANA also blamed the United States for the Israeli strike, though the Pentagon denied any involvement.

Turning point?
The escalation comes at what appears to be a turning point in the proxy conflict between Russia, Iran and the Assad regime on one side and the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other. US President Donald Trump blindsided everyone in Washington, including officials in his own administration, lawmakers from his own party and the Pentagon, when he said recently that the US military was going to extricate itself from Syria quickly.

As military leaders scramble to manage the implementation of the president’s apparent decision, which tracks his campaign promises to stop spending money on wars in the Middle East, the administration has been reluctant to provide a timeline. Trump has reportedly said he wants an exit within several months, though he has been a vocal critic of telegraphing strategy by providing timelines for military movements.

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