Thursday's clashes are the most significant military clash between Israel and Syria since the beginning of the Syrian war, in March of 2011. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph: (Others)
Syria fires missiles against Israeli fighters conducting unidentified operations beyond their airspace
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) confirmed that late Thursday night its fighters were flying over Syrian skies to hit some unspecified targets. They also confirmed that the Syrian army responded with anti-aircraft missiles, which did not reach Israeli fighters.
"Overnight the Israeli Air Force (IAF) aircrafts targeted several targets in Syria. Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission," the military said in its statement.
Overnight, IAF aircrafts struck several targets in Syria and were fired upon by anti-aircraft missiles. pic.twitter.com/Woodc8Pd7w— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) March 17, 2017
Reuters reported that the Syrian Arab Army high command accused Israel of breaching Syrian airspace and declared to have shot down one of its warplanes, a claim denied by the IDF. The Syrian army said that Jerusalem's fighters were conducting an attack in the vicinity of Palmyra, which they considered as an aggression.
One of the anti-aircraft missiles was intercepted and destroyed by the IDF Aerial Defense System, the anti-missile network located in the north of the Israel.
No casualties have been reported.
It is still not clear what kind of targets Jerusalem was chasing during this operation. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz highlighted the fact that during the past five years, it has not been unusual for Israel to target Hezbollah's weapon convoys and warehouses located on Syrian soil.
Lebanese Hezbollah is now openly supporting President Bashar al-Assad with men and weapons in his war against all the rebel brigades and terrorist organisations.
Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that his country carried dozens of attacks against weapon convoys meant to reach the Lebanese organisation through Syria. Israel has always considered the armed Lebanese party a terrorist organisation and a clear threat to their security.
In 2006, Hezbollah and Jerusalem fought an open war.
Hezbollah is backed by Iran, who also sits on President Assad's side and is considered by Israel to be the major source of instability for the entire West Asia.
The Iran-Hezbollah cooperation in Syria is cause for serious concern for Israel which suspects that President Assad could easily allow its two crucial allies to exchange weapons and sophisticated technologies on its soil.
Tehran and Hezbollah could use Syria as a temporary common ground where to meet and strengthen their alliance without any international interference.
Iran has justified its presence on Syria's soil with the sole purpose of defending Shi'ite shrines and believers from terrorism, but the country's chief of staff stated in November that Tehran was exploring the possibility of setting up a naval base in Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had openly stated to the Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting they recently had in Moscow that he is concerned about Iran's willingness to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.
"We discussed at length the matter of Iran, its objectives and intentions in Syria, and I clarified that there cannot be a peace deal in Syria when Iran is there and declares its intention to destroy Israel," Netanyahu said to Reuters.
Thursday's clashes are the most significant military clash between Israel and Syria since the beginning of the Syrian war, in March of 2011.
This is yet another example about how this war is not solely about Syria anymore, but it has become a war of proxies where regional and international powers keep struggling to expand their areas of influence. An evolution which many of the people who six years ago decided to revolt against Assad's dictatorship could not have possibly imagined.