January 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Netanyahu Signals Israel Will Press Syria Strikes

January 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Netanyahu Signals Israel Will Press Syria Strikes

Latest Developments

Syria said Israel attacked Damascus International Airport today, briefly putting the site out of service. According to preliminary media reports, the target was a position run by the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Syrian military said a second predawn Israeli strike killed at least two of its personnel south of Damascus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to push back against Tehran’s regional belligerence and nuclear advances.

Expert Analysis

“Almost a decade has passed since Israel began its ‘campaign between wars’ in Syria, whose pace of airstrikes — according to IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi — has increased from once in every four months at the outset to once per week today. Syrian airports have increasingly been targeted — a reflection of their increasing use by Iran for unloading advanced weaponry destined for terror groups on Israel’s border and Hezbollah in Lebanon. That Damascus International Airport appears to have resumed some operations within eight hours of Monday’s strike is a testament to Israeli precision in carrying out the strike.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“Despite Russia’s Ukraine invasion, in Syria, at least, the rules between Jerusalem and Moscow seem to be holding: Israel carries out strikes against Iranian targets without encountering Russian resistance, presumably with some advance warning to avoid unplanned clashes or casualties. This serves Israeli interests and can be expected to weigh on Netanyahu’s mind against considering any dramatic Israeli policy shift in the Ukraine crisis.” David Adesnik, FDD Senior Fellow and Director of Research

The ‘Campaign Between Wars’

The Israeli operations — which Israel did not immediately confirm or comment on — appeared to be the first in its so-called “campaign between wars” since Netanyahu returned to power last week. Tehran has exploited the decade-long civil war in Syria to entrench itself militarily in the country and to deliver large quantities of advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon. In October 2022, Israeli military officials asserted that Israel had destroyed 90 percent of Iranian military infrastructure in Syria over the course of recent years.

The Russia-Syria Nexus

The Israeli operations follow a December 22 phone call between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the Israeli leader, according to a statement from his office, said he was “determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and to halt its attempts to establish a military base on [Israel’s] northern border.” As Damascus’ big-power ally during the Syrian civil war, the Russians maintain air defenses in the Arab country as well as a military deconfliction mechanism with Israel.

Related Analysis

The Quiet War between Israel and Iran,” by Jonathan Schanzer

Breaking Precedent, Israel Provides Details of Syria Air Strike,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Reveals Iranian Missile Production Sites in Syria,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Russia Syria