As tensions in Ukraine continue to run high, Russia does not forget the Middle East and has sent Israel clear and public signalsboth verbal and military, and not just through diplomatic channels, to put an end to the usual aerial bombardments in Syrian territoryin the last of which, on Wednesday of last week, a soldier from Damascus was killed.
Moscow has warned that these aggressions, to which Israel has become accustomed, may lead to a military “escalation”which is interpreted as an open and unprecedented threat to which the Israeli authorities have preferred not to respond publicly until now.
Right after the last raid on Wednesday, Moscow’s ambassador to Damascus issued a resounding condemnation of the bombing in a totally unusual gesture. The ambassador’s condemnation was followed a few hours later, on Thursday, by a more serious warning, no less clear and unusual, from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
“The continued Israeli bombardments against targets on Syrian territory are a cause of serious concern,” Zakharova said in words that were reported on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry and by the Sputnik agency.
“Is about a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty that can cause a sharp escalation of the situation,” continued Zakharova, who stressed that these actions create risks to international air traffic and constitute an impediment for the Syrian army to effectively combat the jihadist groups operating in the country.
The Russian spokeswoman emphasized that her country strongly opposes Syria becoming a theater of armed confrontation between third countries, words that veiledly seem to refer to the US and Turkey. The case of Iran is different since it has the green light from Damascus. “We again urge the Israeli side to refrain from such violent actions.”
to these decisive convictions you have to add the air exercise that Russian and Syrian fighters carried out on January 23 in the Golan, next to the Golan sector occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, moves that raised concern in the Jewish state and are also unprecedented.
Russian pilots participated in the exercise alongside the Syrians. The Russians used Su-34, Su-35 and an A-50 early warning aircraft, while the Syrians used MiG-23 and MiG-29 aircraft, according to the TASS agency, citing the Defense Ministry. The Russian planes departed from the Hmeymim base and the Syrian planes from a base near Damascus.
During the patrol, planes from the two countries “controlled the airspace” and “provided air cover,” according to the Moscow Defense Ministry statement. “Russian crews practiced strikes on ground and air targets.” But what is most worrying for Israel is that the statement ended by saying: “This kind of joint missions will take place regularly from now on.”
It is interesting that the joint patrol took place on January 23, and that from then until last Wednesday, Israeli planes refrained from flying over Syrian territory. The Israeli attack on Wednesday coincided with the escalation of the Ukrainian crisiswhich suggests that Tel Aviv might have thought that Moscow was too busy to attend to the Syrian case, but it was not.
Up in the air is the question of whether Israel is going to continue with the bombing, that is, whether it is going to ignore Moscow’s explicit warnings. In Tel Aviv they have maintained for years that these attacks are necessary to stop Iran, an ally of Syria, in order not to have Iranian or pro-Iranian forces on the other side of the fence of the occupied Golan.
If Tel Aviv suddenly stops bombing, its prestige in the eyes of allied Arab countries, which admire and support Israeli militarism, will deteriorate. Therefore, it is likely that Israel is negotiating with Moscow on this issue, that is, looking for a way to save face in some way that allows it to continue bombing Syria, if only in very specific circumstances and not as frequently as it has been up to now.
All these problems derive from the historical Israeli refusal to withdraw from the Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied in the 1967 war. If this factor were to disappear, things would return to normal more easily, but Israel’s priority is just the oppositethat is, to consolidate the occupation by all the means at its disposal and at any cost.
From the mandate of donald trump, which ended a year ago, Israel has become the great hegemonic power from Iraq to Morocco, relying on autocracies and monarchies whose leaders believe that no one can provide them with greater protection than the Jewish state. The current incidents with Russia over Syria could undermine his prestige.