(National Sentinel)Â War Drums: Tensions have been building between Iran and Israel for months, and they are about to spill over into a conflict that could draw in regional and global powers including Russia and the United States.
For years, Iran has been sending equipment and forces into Syria to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, alongside Russian forces.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has been assisting rebel forces comprised mostly of Kurds in the fight against ISIS.
But now that the Islamic State is mostly defeated and the last Syrian rebel strongholds are falling to government forces, Iran has sought to solidify and expand its presence inside Syria, which Israel has long considered a direct threat to its national security.
The Israeli air force has conducted several cross-border bombing missions against Syrian and Iranian positions for months, warning Tehran that it won’t allow its forces to gain footholds inside what’s left of the rump state of Syria.
On Thursday, Iranian forces struck back, firing a barrage of missiles into the Jewish state, but causing little damage.
That attack brought an immediate, massive response, as theÂ Times of Israel reports:
Some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces from southern Syria just after midnight on Thursday, sparking the largest ever direct clash between Jerusalem and Tehran, with Israeli jets targeting numerous Iranian-controlled sites across Syria.
The Israeli army said the initial missile barrage was carried out by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corpsâ€™ Quds Forces. This appeared to be the first time that Israel attributed an attack directly to Iran, which generally operates through proxies.
Some of the incoming missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said. There were no reports of Israeli casualties in the attack. An IDF spokesperson said damage was caused to Israeli military bases, but that it was â€œlimited.â€
In response, Israel launched an extensive retaliatory campaign, striking suspected Iranian bases throughout Syria for hours following the initial Iranian bombardment, an Israeli military spokesperson said, warning Syrian dictator Bashar Assad not to get involved.
â€œThe Israel Defense Forces is taking action at this moment against Iranian targets in Syria. Any Syrian involvement against this move will be met with the utmost severity,â€ wrote Avichay Adraee, the Israeli militaryâ€™s Arabic-language spokesperson, on Twitter.
Arab media reports noted further that the Israel Defense Forces struck several targets across Syria, including weapons depots and Assad regime radar and air defense systems.
The escalating conflict comes on the heels of President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the so-called “nuclear deal” with Iran, an executive arrangement made by President Obama and his administration that was never approved as a legitimate treaty.
Also, the missile exchange between Iran and Israel comes as militant group Hezbollah, a major Iranian proxy, and its allies won a majority of seats in the Lebanese parliament.
It’s not clear yet what responses the U.S. and Russia will make, but Moscow appears to have no intentions of quitting Syria and abandoning its only presence in the Middle East.
This conflict has been years in the making. Tensions are boiling over. World wars have started over less.
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