The Israeli military sounded a triumphant tone on Thursday morning, having just conducted a massive bombing campaign on targets in Syria, amid a back and forth of rocket fire along the border with Israel.
Israel said the airstrikes were in response to rockets fired into the Golan Heights, though the rocket fire came on the heels of a more limited Israeli strike on targets outside Damascus the night before.
Iranian military capabilities have been set back “many months,” after strikes on “dozens” of targets, Israeli Defense Forces said. IDF spokesperson Leutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said that the overnight strike was the “largest such operation [by Israel] against Iranian targets,”
“All of the targets that we engaged were effectively destroyed,” he added, causing “significant damage” to the Iranians.
“We have hit almost all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, according to a post on the ministry’s official website. “If we have rain, there will be a flood in them.”
While all this was going on, on the heels of president Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was getting the royal treatment – in Moscow.
The long-scheduled visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin also coincided with an important Russian holiday, Victory Day. Netanyahu was special guest of Putin for the annual military parade, Anshel Pfeffer writes for Haaretz, a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Not only did Putin do everything to play up his guest’s presence, but hours after Israel’s counter-attack on Thursday morning, the IDF spokesman made it clear that, before Israel embarked on its largest campaign of bombing in Syria since 1974, Russia had been notified through the deconfliction process that the two countries have had in place since September 2015.
“Russia and Iran are both supporting Assad but that doesn’t mean they share the same priorities. Putin can’t, or won’t get the Iranians to leave their strongholds in Syria. But he seems content to allow Israel to continue bombing them.”
But, Pfeffer says, if things continue to escalate, Putin will eventually have to pick a side.