Six rockets were fired from Syria toward Israel on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Three of the rockets landed in Israeli territory, while the other three fell short in Syria or Jordan. Israeli forces responded by attacking targets in Syria, including a Syrian military compound, radar systems, and artillery posts. The rocket fire comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli security forces fatally shot a 20-year-old Palestinian. Palestinian attacks on Israelis have killed 19 people in recent weeks. The rocket fire from Syria is the latest escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel’s air force struck targets in Syria on Sunday, after militants in the neighbouring country fired rockets toward Israel, capping a week of tensions ignited by a police raid at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.
The Financial Times reports that the latest burst of violence added to fears of a broader escalation. It followed a tense 48 hours in which Israel bombed southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire, and twin attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank that killed two British Israelis and an Italian tourist.
Israel’s military said it hit several targets in Syria in the early hours of Sunday, including rocket launchers, military radar systems, artillery posts and a Syrian army compound.
It launched the strikes after six rockets were fired from Syria towards Israel, setting off sirens in the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967, and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized by most of the international community. One rocket was intercepted, and two fell on open ground.
Arabic media said a Palestinian militant group in Syria had claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.
Syria’s SANA state news agency said the Israeli strikes targeted areas in the south of the country and had caused “some material damage”. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The latest cycle of violence began after Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa mosque on consecutive nights last week to remove Palestinians trying to remain in the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Sulemaniyah Airport attack sparks international reactions
International observers and leaders have reacted to the suspected Turkish drone attack on the commander in chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, at Sulemaniyah International Airport in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Reactions across the board have condemned the attack; some have called for far-reaching consequences.
Abdi accused Turkey of the attack, saying it sought to “sabotage” the SDF’s international relations. It is particularly annoyed at the “patriotic and humanitarian” stance of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the second-largest political party in the region, which has close relations with the SDF.
Abdi also noted that Turkey is attempting to upend the SDF’s partnerships with other anti-ISIS groups, like the U.S.-led Global Coalition, as well as Iraqi and Kurdish anti-terror units, which he was meeting in Sulemaniyah before the attack.
Additionally, “[Turkish president] Erdogan seeks to win the elections and creates a state of chaos to eliminate the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) so that he can open the door for a new invasion of the region,” Mazloum Abdi told North Press.
The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), northeast Syria’s chief diplomatic body, said that “the Turkish government intentionally violates the international law and rules of good neighbourliness, and threatens the lives of the civilians through direct and indirect interference.”
It added that Turkish attacks are destabilizing the Iraqi community – one of their main partners in the fight against terrorism.
Ilham Ahmed, the SDC’s President of the Executive Committee, argued that “continuous Turkish violations of the sovereignty of Syria and Iraq destabilize the Middle East. The PUK is our permanent ally and supporter,” in a personal tweet.
Over the weekend, a number of U.S. officials have also commented on the drone strike. Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic senator for the state of Maryland, called it “unacceptable”. Van Hollen demanded a full investigation and for the responsible parties to be held to account.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed to North Press that the case is under investigation on Saturday. A spokesperson for the DoD stressed that U.S. forces will remain in Syria and Iraq supporting “local partner forces and to achieve the enduring defeat of ISIS.” The DoD has so far not named a culprit for the attack.
The voices within the U.S. security community calling for Turkey to be reined in over its attacks on the U.S. partner force have increased in recent months. Michael Rubin, a former official at the Pentagon, argued that it is time to sanction Turkish officials over such attacks, as well as stop intelligence sharing, delist PKK, and kick Turkey out of the anti-ISIS coalition. Rubin even proposed that the U.S. should outfit the SDF with drones of their own.
Iran plans to attack Israeli-owned vessels to avenge advisers killed in Syria
Iran is preparing to attack Israeli-owned trading vessels to avenge two Revolutionary Guards advisors killed in alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria last month, according to The Times of Israel.
The IRGC’s Aerospace Force is gearing up to launch drone attacks on ships sailing through the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, according to the report, which cited two anonymous senior Western intelligence officials.
An Iranian political strategist linked to the IRGC told the newspaper the planned attacks were in retaliation for the strikes in Syria.
The report came as the U.S. military announced it had dispatched the USS Florida, a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine to the Middle East to “help ensure regional maritime security and stability.” The show of force comes amid heightened tensions with Iran, which continues to harass shipping and attack oil tankers in the area, including several owned by Israelis.
Washington usually does not disclose the locations of its submarines while they are at sea.
“It is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability,” fleet spokesperson Commander Timothy Hawkins said in a statement.
Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from ships or submarines can hit targets up to 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles away).
CIA complained U.S. was blindsided by Saudi outreach to Syria and Iran
CIA director Bill Burns told Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman that the U.S. feels “blindsided” by Riyadh’s moves to restore ties with Iran and Syria as part of the kingdom’s increasingly independent foreign policy streak.
Burns travelled to Saudi Arabia at an undisclosed time this week to discuss intelligence cooperation with the Saudi Arabians. During the meeting, he expressed Washington’s frustration at being left out of regional developments, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The visit, first reported by the Washington Post, follows a series of surprise diplomatic breakthroughs by Riyadh that have left the U.S. on the sidelines, fanning talk of the U.S.’s waning influence in the region.
By all accounts, Riyadh and Tehran appear serious about moving the relationship forward. According to the WSJ, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has accepted a Saudi invitation to visit the kingdom, although no date has been set.
Burns’ comments challenge the U.S.’s official line that Saudi Arabia kept it informed of its talks with Iran to restore diplomatic relations.
“The Saudis did keep us informed about these talks that they were having, just as we keep them informed on our engagements,” White House spokesman John Kirby said last month.
Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria postponed to May
The meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria has been postponed to early May, Russian Ambassador to Damascus Alexander Efimov said in an interview with the Al Watan newspaper.
“The meeting, which was scheduled for Monday, has been rescheduled for early May. Contacts and consultations continue between the parties to achieve positive results on this issue,” he said.
Efimov emphasized that Moscow will continue to make attempts to convene a quadripartite summit, and added that all issues between the parties can be settled in one or more rounds of negotiations. “This is a long road, but we’re taking it step by step,” the diplomat said.
At a press conference following meetings with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that preparations for the quadripartite summit involved, among other things, settling on dates that would be acceptable to all four ministers.
The process of restoring relations between Ankara and Damascus began on December 28, 2022, in Moscow, with meetings involving the heads of Russia’s, Syria’s, and Turkey’s defence ministries. The parties agreed to form a joint tripartite commission during the meeting. These consultations should be followed by a meeting of foreign ministers, with the agenda including talks between Turkish and Syrian Presidents Tayyip Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad. Later, it was stated that Iran would participate in consultations.
Iranian President to Assad: World order changing in favour of resistance front
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has told his Syria counterpart Bashar al-Assad on the phone that the world order is changing in favour of the axis of resistance and to the detriment of global arrogance and the “Zionist regime,” Iranian media reported.
President Raisi added that the crimes of the Zionist regime are a sign of its decline and desperation and show that the future is bright for the resistance front.
The Iranian president also congratulated Assad on the holy month of Ramadan. The Syrian president for his part congratulated Raisi on Ramadan.
Assad further referred to Iran’s and Syria’s resistance against common enemies for 4 decades, saying today, signs are emerging of implosion in the Zionist society.
Assad added that this is the result of resistance and perseverance on the part of the Palestinian people.
The Israeli regime has bombarded Syria frequently over the past few years amid a foreign-backed insurgency against the Syrian government.
The airstrikes have killed many Syrians and even Iranian military advisors. Last week, two military advisors of the Islamic Republic of Iran were killed in Israeli air raids in Syria.
Iran says it will take revenge for these killing by the Zionist regime at the time and place of its choosing.
Australia must rescue citizens from ‘dire’ Syrian detention camps, Red Cross says
Australia and other countries must continue to rescue their citizens from “dire” conditions in camps in north-eastern Syria, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.
The global director general of the Geneva-based humanitarian organization, Robert Mardini, said the “state of in-limbo cannot last any longer”.
“From a humanitarian perspective, this situation is simply untenable,” he said.
In October, the Australian government repatriated four Australian women and 13 children from a Syrian detention camp, But about 40 Australian citizens – about 30 children and about 10 women – are believed to remain there.