Tonight massive air explosions and sirens sounded throughout Israel, the West Bank and Jordan as the IAF launched a raid against advanced Hezbollah weaponry traveling through Syria. That is quite routine. But what happened next is anything but…
Syrian air defenses launched Russian-made SA-5 missiles at the Israeli planes. Even that has happened before (but rarely). Here is the official IDF statement:
דובר צה”ל מוסר כי הלילה (ו’), י”ט באדר התשע”ז, 17 במרץ 2017, תקף צה”ל באמצעות מטוסי חיל האוויר מספר מטרות בסוריה. במהלך הפעילות שוגרו טילים נגד מטוסים. לעבר אחד מהטילים שוגר מיירט של מערך ההגנה האווירית של חיל האוויר.
לא נשקפה סכנה לכוחותינו ולאזרחי מדינת ישראל.
OTR: האזעקות שנשמעו הינן כתוצאה מהפעילות הנ”ל.
According to Israeli media, the IAF determined that while the Syrian missiles would not endanger its planes, they were likely to land inside Israeli territory. So in order to protect Israeli civilians, an IAF “interceptor” was fired at the Syrian missile without specifying what type of armament it was. That is where the real story lies (the tweet is by Channel 10’s senior military correspondent):
מערכת החץ היא שהופעלה כנגד הטיל הסורי. הפיצוצים שנשמעו באזור י-ם היו כתוצאה מהירוט. זו הפעם הראשונה שישראל מאשרת… https://t.co/v5kFAiGAYA
— Alon Ben-David (@alonbd) March 17, 2017
The IAF launched its new Arrow interceptors (one media report says they were the Arrow 2 model, not the latest Arrow 3), received for the first time last January, which destroyed at least one of the Syrian missiles. This is what millions of Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians heard tonight.
A U.S. defense publication was skeptical of the army’s explanation. It noted that the Arrow would not be an appropriate weapon to use against the SA-5. Rather it was more likely the Syrians, incensed at yet another Israeli atrack on their territory launched a SCUD missile aimed at Israel. That is why the Arrow, designed to protect the homeland rather than to counter surface-to-air mussiles, was launched. Naturally, the military does not want to alarm the civilian population, which is why the cover story involving the SA-5 was offered.
Reports from Arab social media accounts speculated that missiles had been fired at Jerusalem from Jordan. Almost the opposite was the case. Israeli reports say that pieces of the spent Arrow landed in Jordan, which could cause quite a ticklish situation in terms for Israeli-Jordanian relations. Jordan wants to steer clear of the Syrian conflict. This only tends to draw them into it further.
Arrow is a joint U.S.-Israeli weapons system. So this first operational engagement would be extremely important to the developers. In fact, I can imagine a scenario in which the IAF deliberately initiated the entire operation solely in order to both test Syrian air defenses and the Arrow response.
Keep in mind that Syria’s air defenses are largely Russian. So in a sense Israel is testing both the latest U.S. weaponry and Russia’s air defence systems. Israel’s military has served the same role over the decades when U.S. supplied weapons were tested against Arab armies supplied largely with Russian weapons. Today’s confrontation is only the latest in a long line of such battles between U.S. and Russian proxies. Tonight’s raid and its aftermath only serves to reinforce just how tiny this little patch of the Middle East is. Consider the possibility that Israel (and Saudi Arabia) could launch a far larger attack on Iran and what might be the collateral impact of such insanity.
Remember that lame claim that Israel was “neutral” in the Syrian conflict? Fuhgedaboudit!
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