On Sunday night, the Israeli military, using the Iron Dome missile shield, intercepted 4 missiles over the Golan Heights which were launched from southern Syria.
At about the same time, reports came in about explosions in the area of Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) later reported that five Israeli missiles struck Iranian and Hezbollah targets in southern Damascus while no casualties were reported.
On Monday night, the situation on the Syrian front further escalated when the Israeli air force, using unknown type of warplanes struck dozens of Iran-related and Syrian army targets in Syria.
Among the targets hit were modern air defense systems, reconnaissance facilities and weapon depots as well as the central command base of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at Damascus International Airport.
Media later reported that 11 people died during the Israeli strikes among them 7 foreign nationals, most likely members of the Quds Force, while scores of others reportedly injured.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s newly appointed defense minister made clear that the rules of the game have changed and hinted at the possibility of direct Israeli attacks inside Iran.
“Our message to Iran’s leaders is simple: You are no longer immune. Wherever you stretch your tentacles-we will hack them off. The IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens,” Bennett told reporters at the Kiryah, the headquarters of the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
A senior Israeli defense official later confirmed that Israel could carry out strikes in Iran when necessary from now on.
IDF Spokesperson Brig.Gen. Hidai Zilberman also confirmed the rules of the game in the war against the Iranian axis have changed now that Bennett is defense minister.
There’s a reason Israel is taking off its gloves and now threatens to take the war with Iran to the country itself which is currently the scene of unprecedented protests against the Islamist regime.
Iran’s entrenchment in both Iraq and Syria is much deeper than initially thought and is becoming an existential threat for Israel.
Let’s first take a look what is happening in Iraq where Iran is in the advanced stages of taking over the country and turn it into a second Lebanon.
To get an idea how deeply Iran is embedded in Iraq one has only to read an expose that was published by The New York Times and The Intercept and which was based on a trove of 700 pages of internal Iranian regime documents.
The authentic documents – many of them written by Iranian intelligence officials – showed that the Iranian entrenchment in Iraq began after the American invasion in 2003.
The Iranians slowly infiltrated Iraq’s political establishment and intelligence services as well as the CIA branch in the country.
The documents and cables reveal that the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) made great strides in expanding Iran’s influence over domestic politics in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
The Quds Force, led by Qassem Soleimani, also focussed on cultivating warm ties with high-ranking officials in Iraq.
The vacuum in Iraq after the full withdrawal of the US army in 2011 was quickly filled not only by Islamic State but also by Iran, the documents reveal.
The Iranian intervention resulted late 2014 in the establishment of the equivalent of the IRGC the al-Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias which has become an integral part of the Iraqi army in 2017.
Al-Hashd al-Shaabi is now heavily involved in stamping-out the current uprising in Iraq against the regime of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who is a close ally of Iran, and failed to improve the dire living conditions of the Iraqi people due to rampant corruption.
At the same time al-Hashd al-Shaabi is together with the Quds Force building-up its military infrastructure in Iraq and established a base near Baghdad where in a future confrontation with Israel missile attacks on the Jewish state should be coordinated.
Then there is Syria where Iran continues its entrenchment and its military build-up unabated.
The Washington Insitute this week published an analysis documenting how “Tehran and its proxies have been exerting hard and soft power in northeast Syria, combining military consolidation with economic, social, and religious outreach in order to cement their long-term influence.”
Iran’s latest plan for Syria is to marginalizing the army of dictator Bashar al-Assad by giving the Iraqi militias of Hashd al-Shaabi unlimited freedom in operating in the country.
Soleimani’s forces already control 7 cities on the east bank of the Euphrates River in the Deir Ez-Zur Province and have a force of 4.500 fighters in the region who are in full control of military and civil affairs.
The various Shiite militias in northeast Syria now call themselves Syrian Hezbollah and are building military bases near the Iranian-built border crossing al-Bukamal on the Iraqi Syrian border.
Iran together with al-Hashd al-Shaabi are also exporting the Shia Islamic revolution to Syria by infiltrating the educational system and the social fabric of the Sunni Arab society there.
Schools and other institutes are forced to participate in religious and other Iranian organized events and receive in return financial aid.
The Quds Force also uses Iranian teachers to educate Syrians in the Farsi language and Iranian history.
Soleimani last July founded the Liwa Hurras al-Maqamat” (The Guardians of Holy Shrines Brigade), which must build and protect Shia Shrines in northeast Syria.
Closer to Israel in the Daraa region south of the Golan Heights but also on the mountainous plateau, similar developments have been reported.
The Syrian Observer reported this week that angry Syrians in Daraa demanded the expulsion of Iranian militias from the region and the release of prisoners from prisons.
Unknown assailants also carried out armed attacks against checkpoints manned by the Shiite militias.
The attacks seemed to be a retaliation for a number of assassinations of Sunni leaders which are ascribed to the Quds Force and its Shiite militias.