Israel, Iran: Two wars with different engagement rules in Syria

Syrian air defense systems intercepting Israeli air missiles in the sky of the capital, Damascus (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Syrian air defense systems intercepting Israeli air missiles in the sky of the capital, Damascus (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli

For years, Israeli fighter jets have carried out strikes on sites for the Syrian regime or the allied groups. The identification of these warplanes has always been limited to the military statements of the regime’s Ministry of Defense, which reveal the source of the bombing after each targeting but, most of the time, ignore the target location.

With the outbreak of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, some of these Israeli targets were being uncovered under the pretext of responding to missiles launched from Syria.

The Israeli army links its strikes and bombing of Syria to missiles or shells launched from southern Syria in particular, while it goes out at different times to target vital areas, including airports, without an official announcement.

Repeated bombing

On November 17, the Israeli occupation army targeted, with an air attack, sites around the capital, Damascus, causing material damage.

The regime’s defense ministry said that Israel attacked a number of points around the capital, Damascus, from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights, and the damage was limited to material damage.

It added that its air defense systems intercepted the missiles and shot down most of them, which was also reported by the official Syrian News Agency (SANA), quoting a military source that it did not name.

While Israel did not claim responsibility for the attack, Israeli media contented itself with reporting the news of the bombing from the official regime media.

Since mid-October, Israeli attacks on areas of southern Syria have been repeated, but the occupation army was claiming responsibility for these attacks as a response to sources of gunfire from Syrian territory.

At the same time, the targets that the regime says are Israeli have not been absent, and have affected various locations in the Syrian geography.

On November 9, Israel bombed a site in southern Syria, causing material damage, SANA reported at the time.

It later became clear, according to what was reported by the Suwayda 24 website, that the bombing targeted military sites in the southern As-Suwayda governorate and the Damascus countryside.

It resulted in the destruction of two radar and early warning points in Tal Qulaib and Tal Masih in the northeastern countryside of As-Suwayda, followed by the rising of flames from the two sites, according to the local news site.

On October 27, an Israeli air strike hit a site in Damascus with several missiles without information about the extent of the damage.

SANA said at the time that Syrian air defenses responded to an “air aggression” that targeted unspecified points in the vicinity of Damascus.

On October 22, Israeli aircraft targeted the runways of Damascus and Aleppo international airports, in a simultaneous attack, the second of its kind within ten days, and put them out of service.

SANA quoted a military source as saying that an “air aggression” with bursts of missiles from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea, west of Latakia, and from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights targeted the two airports.

This was preceded on October 12 by Israeli air strikes on the airports in Aleppo and Damascus, which led to the return of a plane carrying the Iranian Foreign Minister to Iran.

Two strategies for Israel

Iranian affairs analyst, Marwan Farzat, believes that there are two types of Israeli bombing in Syria, given the existence of two types of rules of engagement that Israel established in its “cold” war with Iran.

Farzat told Enab Baladi that the basic rules of engagement that began years ago were to prevent advanced Iranian weapons from reaching Tehran’s arms in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.

These engagement rules constituted an Israeli continuation of striking Iranian arms shipments, whether coming through Syria by land, sea, or air, in addition to targeting the roads and stopping and changing stations that the shipments follow on their way to Lebanon.

Farzat believes that new rules of engagement were formed by Israel following the events of the Al-Aqsa Flood. Iran and Israel are the two sides of this war, given that the Syrian regime is far removed from this front and does not have any decision in it.

Hence, the two parties set these rules of engagement so that they do not exceed a distance of five kilometers from both sides of the border and that only light and medium weapons and missiles with modest destructive capacity are used.

Another analyst on Iranian affairs, Mustafa al-Nuaimi, believes that the Israeli targeting comes with two paths. The first is intelligence, which aims to follow the logistical activity of the movement of the pro-Iranian militia leadership based on a US-Israeli intersection of information.

The second is the military, aiming to strike arms shipments as a strategic target via American or Israeli fighters in Syria, especially after the “major” activity shown by the so-called Islamic Resistance in Iraq operations room, which repeatedly targets American bases in Syria and Iraq.


Iran and Israel are positioned as parties to two separate wars. The first has been ongoing for years in Syria, targeting Iranian shipments, and the second is linked to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.

Marwan Farzat – a political analyst specializing in Iranian affairs.


Separate development

Since the beginning of the confrontations, the United States and Israel have expressed their desire to ensure that it does not expand, or involve new parties, in reference to Iranian-backed militias in the region, most notably the Lebanese Hezbollah.

In this regard, Farzat believes that Israel is dealing with the strikes targeting Iranian arms shipments heading towards Lebanon via Syria as if they were separate from the ongoing war in Gaza, so their pace and form remained the same as before.

At the same time, the expert on Iranian affairs and the groups loyal to Tehran pointed out that these strikes increased in frequency because the Iranians exploited Israel’s preoccupation with the Gaza war to pass a large number of arms shipments to Hezbollah, but Israel was watching the Iranian movements, so it intensified its strikes on these shipments.

In turn, the expert al-Nuaimi says that some military attacks are ignored by Israel to avoid an Iranian response, especially when these operations are in the context of responding to previous Iranian violations or to put some Syrian military points out of service, as happened in the targeting of the vicinity of the Deir Ezzor military airport a few days ago.

At the same time, Iran cannot announce that it has been subjected to Israeli targeting in a specific area, as it is obligated to respond in this case, as the two sides tend to follow the path of “strategic silence” regarding the damage resulting from mutual targeting, in order to avoid the issue of embarrassment of not responding, which is a path the two parties adopted in their confrontations within the Syrian geography.

Al-Nuaimi did not see any radical change in the rules of engagement during the past two months, even with the factors mentioned previously, but he did not rule out their change in the future according to the size of the threats felt by both parties.

Tension has escalated in the southern regions of Syria following repeated Israeli attacks on the region since the launch of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood by the Hamas-led Palestinian factions.

Israel responded to the operation by announcing an attack called “Iron Swords,” which coincided with an intense and continuous bombardment of the Gaza Strip and then turned into a ground invasion, the results of which were unknown, while the bombing left 13,300 people dead, according to statistics from the government media office in Gaza, as of November 20.

The number of attacks targeting American bases in Syria also reached 57, according to the latest official American announcement about these attacks. America responded to part of them with three air strikes that targeted sites of militias loyal to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in eastern Syria.



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