According to regional experts, Tel-Aviv wants to limit Iran’s efficiency in the region by attacking territories in Syria.

The Israeli air force reportedly struck Syrian neighbourhoods of Albu-Kamal and Deir ez Zor provinces on Wednesday morning, according to the Assad regime's official news agency, SANA. 

If proven, this will be the fourth Israeli airstrike in Syria in less than two weeks. 

As the reports emerged, the Israeli air force has not only targeted the regime's military posts and bases, but also hit the locations held by the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and other local and foreign militias in eastern Syria. 

Several warehouses and sites belonging to armed groups linked to Iran were also targeted

In recent years, when such attacks took place, the Syrian regime would report it as an "unidentified aircraft" violating the regime's air space and hitting militias loyal to Tehran. 

But over time, the regime started to blame Israel for carrying out airstrikes against its soldiers and Shia proxies. After Wednesday morning’s incident, the regime reported a similar attack in southern Syria, where explosions were heard in the night. 

The late-night strike reportedly targeted weapons depots, observation points and radar sites belonging to the Syrian military and pro-regime militias.

Speaking to TRT World, Ozden Zeynep Oktav, an international relations professor at Istanbul Medeniyet University, said the Israeli strikes in Syria are meant to end Iran's influence in the war-torn country. 

“Following the recent developments in the Middle East, Israel was able to bring Egypt on its side and Tel Aviv has started collaborating with the Gulf countries which has paved the way for Israel's extensive struggle against Iran,” Oktav said. 

With US President Donald Trump’s policies towards Iran and the Middle East favouring Israel’s position in the region, Oktav said Israel now wants to confront Iran in Syria by targeting its forces and militias along the eastern and southern borders. 

“Recent attitude of the US towards Iran has already dragged down Iran’s economy and Tel Aviv is taking this opportunity to end Tehran’s influence in the region,” she said.

“However, the elections in Israel and Iran will determine the fate of the Syria issue and likewise in the region”. 

Exploiting the Syrian conflict 

In December, two similar airstrikes targeted sites near the Lebanon-Syria border in Al Zabadani and Masyaf.

The airstrikes have come in the last days of President Trump's administration. Some analysts argue that Tel-Aviv and Washington were perhaps on the path of taking military action against Iran before the handover to a new White House administration.

Israeli officials have not made any statement regarding the recent airstrikes, which reportedly killed more than 25 pro-Iran and regime militias in Syria. 

Deir ez Zor is a major link between Iran and Lebanon. Some major gas pipelines and trade routes pass through the province, connecting the two countries with Iraq and Jordan. 

With the help of Iran and Russia, the Syrian regime captured the central and western parts of Deir ez Zor when Daesh terrorists retreated from the area in November 2017. 

The region is largely controlled by pro-regime and Iran-backed militias, who are commanded by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They have opened Shia prayer centres and schools where they give sectarian religious education to the people who mainly come from the Sunni sect. 

On the other hand, Deir ez Zor, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, is currently under the control of the YPG and PKK terrorist groups.

Selim Han Yeniacun, an expert on Israeli politics, said that Shia militias in Syria are aware of the strategic importance of Deir ez Zor. It has been one of the most important distribution points in the region as it intersects the M4-M7 highways. 

“Israel calls these attacks preventive measures but it is unclear what they are meant to prevent. The places they’ve been bombing are far away from Israel’s borders,” Yeniacun told TRT World. 

Israel's foreign policy, according to Yeniacun, has been affected by the events triggered by the Arab Spring as it could only negotiate with Arab leaders with the help of Trump-style diplomacy, which is likely to change with the incoming Biden administration.  

“There is a dilemma in Israel on how to deal with  Syria. Tel Aviv neither wants the Assad regime nor a Syria without an oppressive regime. It only desires for creating a ‘handy enemy’ in Syria, which can help it realise its regional goals,” Yeniacun said. 

Source: TRT World