Syria accused Israel on Wednesday of attempting to sabotage the ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia.
The Israel Air Force attacked Syrian government targets in the Syrian Golan Heights on Tuesday night in retaliation for three mortars fired from the country into Israeli territory.
A statement issued by the Syrian Defense Ministry claimed that “this attack was launched by the Israeli enemy in support of the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra, and is a clear attempt to escalate tensions and bring about the failure of the US-Russian brokered ceasefire.”
The regime of President Bashar Assad went on to say that “at 11:26pm Tuesday night, Israel attacked an artillery position at Ein el-Burj at the foothills of the eastern Syrian Hermon. The area was attacked by two rockets fired by aircraft flying within Israel. One artillery battery was destroyed and another one damaged as a result.”
The Syrian army and its allies Hezbollah and Iran have been battling for control of the Israel-Syria border with various Syrian rebel groups. The rebels have launched a campaign aimed at taking over the last regime strongholds on the Golan, including the town of Madinat al-Ba’ath and the area of Khan Arnabeh outside of Quneitra. The Assad regime has responded to these attacks with heavy artillery fire.
There have been three fire spillover incidents on the Golan Heights over the past few days.
In a statement following its retaliatory attack, the IDF said it “views the Syrian regime as responsible for anything that happens in its territory, but will not hesitate to act against other opposition elements in Syria.”
This last part of the statement is quite unusual, and can be seen as an answer to the Syrian regime’s claim that the IDF works in conjunction with the rebels.
Meanwhile, the front page headline of the Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper al-Akhbar on Wednesday declared that “Syria has surprised the enemy; a new balance in the Golan.”
The paper’s editor-in-chief, Ibrahim al-Amin, published an editorial which, while touching upon the subject of the US brokered ceasefire, also mentioned the change of policy by the Syrian regime.
According to al-Amin, “Hezbollah is preparing for the possibility of a confrontation in southern Syria, particularly in light of recent information on Saudi’s intentions—in conjunction with the US, France and Jordan—to launch a campaign in the south to make up for the rebels’ losses in the north of the country. In such a situation, Hezbollah can clearly see Israel’s role, particularly as these players don’t object to—and even prefer—Israel’s involvement in the crisis and its assistance in attacking bases of the regime and its allies. This situation requires strategies that would pave the way, like the move done by the Syrian army yesterday when it announced its intention to stop any Israeli aggression.”
Another story in the paper quoted Syrian military officials who repeated the claim that the Assad regime shot down two Israeli aircraft. They said one of the aircraft was a Skylark drone, which was downed using an anti-aircraft missile launched from southern Damascus. The other was a fighter jet, which was downed by an anti-aircraft missile fired from the northern Jabal al-Druze in the As-Suwayda region and allegedly crashed near the Israeli border in a village under rebel control.
The IDF has denied these claims, saying the anti-aircraft missiles were far from the Israeli aircraft and did not pose a threat to them at any point.
The same story quoted other Syrian officials as saying that “The Syrian response to the Israeli aircraft is a strong message that Syria would not allow Israel to adopt Jabhat al-Nusra to get a foothold in southern Syria.”
The Syrian officials accused Israel of searching to influence the conflict and of helping Jabhat al-Nusra on the ground. “The decision to launch this recent campaign against the Syrian army is an Israeli political decision,” one of the officials claimed.