ANALYSIS: How Iran and Israel Came Close to War, Again
I watched as the Israeli jets flew overhead en route to yet another air strike against Iranian targets in Syria
At 11 o’clock on Saturday night, this reporter sat on the roof terrace of a house in northern Israel when a number of Israeli warplanes flew towards the Lebanese border where they subsequently extinguished their lights before entering the airspace of Lebanon.
A few minutes later, the first reports about loud explosions in the vicinity of the Syrian capital Damascus came in.
It later became clear a base of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Syrian village of Aqraba was the target of the Israeli Air Force (IAF).
One Iranian and two Hezbollah terrorists were reportedly killed in the IAF attack, which was carefully planned and which thwarted a major terrorist attack on civilians in northern Israel.
IDF spokesperson Brigade General Ronen Manelis announced that a number of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) loaded with explosives had been destroyed during the attack.
The UAVs would be operated by members of the Quds Force who planned to send them to northern Israel where they should have blown up targets in residential areas with the aim of making as many civilian casualties as possible.
The entire Iranian operation was reportedly overseen by Qassem Soleimani, the cunning commander of the Quds Force and the man responsible for exporting the Islamic Revolution to countries such as Syria and Iraq.
Soleimani, in turn, had carefully prepared the planned attack on Israeli villages and towns and began preparations several months ago.
Manelis said the same type Iranian UAVs are also in use by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen to carry out attacks on Saudi Arabia.
The Israeli military in northern Israel was subsequently put on high alert out of fear the Iranians might launch a retaliatory attack.
Later on Saturday night reports came in about a new IAF action this time against Hezbollah in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Lebanese army (LAF) announced that two Israeli UAVs had exploded near Hezbollah’s media center and in the Dahiyeh district where the terrorist organization has its headquarters.
According to the LAF and Hezbollah, one of the two Israeli drones was loaded with explosives, probably the one that seriously damaged the Hezbollah media center in the Moawwas district.
The surprise attack on Hezbollah in Beirut was not claimed by the IDF as opposed to the IAF attack on Aqraba which was openly discussed by Manelis, IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi and Prime Minister Netanyahu in his capacity as Defense Minister.
The Israeli silence had most likely something to do with the wish to de-escalate the situation.
“In a major operational effort, we have thwarted an attack against Israel by the Iranian Quds force and Shi’ite militias. I reiterate: Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against Iranian aggression. ‘If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first ‘” PM Netanyahu said in a statement using a well-known Talmudic saying about the right to neutralize an attacker before he can execute his murderous plan.
Minister Tzachi HaNegbi later announced that Iran had attempted to open a third front against Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights.
The Israeli army has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria since 2013.
This, however, has not prevented Iran from slowly turning Syria into a proxy state from which Shiite militias, along with Hezbollah and the Quds Brigade will open a new front against Israel in the future.
Two Israeli researchers with extensive military experience recently published a very alarming report on Iran’s activities in Syria.
The two, Colonel (Res.) Jaques Neriah and Brigade General (Ret.) Shimon Shapira wrote that Soleimani chaired a secret meeting in 2013 in Iran which was also attended by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
During that meeting, a plan was discussed to form a 150,000-strong Shiite force which would eventually heat up the border with Israel on the Golan Heights.
Today, this plan has become reality as Hezbollah has taken control of the area along the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. The Hezbollah deployment is contrary to a 2018 agreement between Russia and Israel that provided for the creation of an 80-kilometer-wide buffer zone along the Israeli border where no Iran-related forces would be allowed.
The Quds Force and Hezbollah now have bases in various regions in Syria.
Some of them are located in the Suweida province in southern Syria, which is also referred to as Har HaDruzi (Druze Mountain) in Israel.
In 2018 alone, Hezbollah also recruited 3,500 Arabs in southern Syria for the formation of the new force against Israel
Hezbollah commanders, furthermore, command Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s army units and the Lebanese terror group has established four bases near the Israeli border.
According to Neriah and Shapira, Hezbollah is now also commanding five Shiite militias in southern Syria which are being prepared for war against Israel.
Since the end of 2018, the Quds Brigade and Hezbollah established radar and eavesdropping posts close to the Israeli border and are gathering information about the movements of the IAF on the Golan Heights.
Ethnic cleansing of southern Syria where the armed Sunni uprising against Assad began in 2011 is another means that must allow Iran to open a front against Israel on the Golan Heights.
Sunni Syrian Arabs who fled their homes during the now eight-year war may not return home unless they convert to the Shiite version of Islam adhered to by the Iranian regime.
Iran also makes use of NGOs that provide humanitarian and financial assistance to the poverty-stricken Syrian population in order to expand their influence over the originally Sunni country.
Hezbollah officials, furthermore, use straw men to purchase land near the Israeli border.
Neriah and Shapiro say that Iran, and not Assad runs the state of Syria, and that the Israeli effort to prevent this had partial results only.
Assad is only a pawn in the hands of Tehran, the Israeli experts said.