Unprovoked Israeli airstrikes against the Syrian capital, Damascus, were again reported in the early hours of Thursday morning, leading to further accusations by Syrian opposition media and monitoring groups that Iranian-backed fighters had been killed.
At approximately 12:58 (Syrian local time) Israeli airstrikes were said to have been confronted by Syrian Air Defense, according to Syrian State media outlet SANA. SANA reported that most of the Israeli missiles, fired from over Lebanese airspace, were shot down. The reports also noted that 4 Syrian soldiers were injured by the airstrikes, which struck West of Damascus City.
In response to the attacks the Syrian government’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said in a statement: “Israeli occupation authorities, on Thursday dawn, committed a new aggression on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic in flagrant violation of United Nations Charter, the principles of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions which all affirm respect for sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic, by launching missiles from over Lebanese territory, which targeted the vicinity of Damascus”. Syria has also called on the UN Security Council to take immediate action to prevent further Israeli strikes.
Israel did not confirm nor deny that the strikes had taken place, however it can be concluded that they were behind it according to all available evidence.
According to Lebanese News outlet Al-Manar one of Syria’s air defense missiles had exploded inside Lebanon, near al-Houla, an area located close to the Syrian border. The explosion was reportedly heard throughout much of Lebanon and northern occupied Palestine. Some on social media even speculated that an Israeli fighter jet had been shot down or crashed, a theory for which there is no evidence.
Then came the Syrian opposition media and the ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ (SOHR), a British-based group with no credible insight into what happened, claiming 3 Iran-backed fighters had been killed. The SOHR also claimed that the “Israeli strikes destroyed a weapons and ammunition warehouse believed to be used by militias affiliated to the Lebanese Hezbollah in a military post near Al-Demas area,” yet provided no evidence for this claim, citing only unnamed SOHR activists.
The Israeli media is often the way in which these anti-Iran propaganda reports from Syrian opposition outlets grow legs. Likely for the purpose of serving as a form of psychological warfare and propaganda to suit Israeli government purposes. In the case of ‘The Times of Israel’, however, they interestingly noted in their reporting on the SOHR’s allegations that it “has had its credibility questioned in the past,” which speaks to the questionable credibility of the SOHR, even in the eyes of Israeli media.
The constant failings of the SOHR and Syrian opposition media, when it comes to presenting proof in support of their claims, are destroying their credibility. It seems that many journalists are using these reports to support the activities of the Israeli military, despite seeing through the claims and understanding that they damage their own reputations when blindly reporting these claims as truth.
Almost every time that Israel has struck Syria over the past few years, the SOHR or Syrian opposition media have claimed that Iranian targets were struck and fighters killed, with no evidence. They also just so happen to have ‘activists’ and ‘journalists’ who have access to the most secure Syrian government military sites, or as they claim, Iranian/Hezbollah sites. Not only that, but they just so happen to know almost instantly how many people were killed or injured, so these “activists” have access to both sensitive military sites and to hospitals. Of course, this is extremely unlikely.
Israel also notably struck – with mines – an Iranian vessel, operating in the Red Sea, on Tuesday morning. If, as some analysts have suggested, the two attacks are linked, it would be for the purpose of putting pressure on Iran in order to provoke a response. Israel understands that the strikes on Syria will be portrayed as having targeted Iranian sites or Iranian-backed groups, it also knows that when this is added to the escalation on the Red Sea there will be pressure for a response.
If Iran does respond to Israel militarily, this could further complicate issues between the United States and Iran pertaining to re-entering the Iran Nuclear Deal. However, these moves could also be about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his image, presenting himself as strong in the face of the Iranian threat.