Israeli strikes shut down the Syrian Aleppo and Damascus international airports over the last week, as the Jewish State aims to prevent Iran from sending weapons to attack Israel from the north. Meanwhile, the United States is sending a second aircraft carrier to the region to deter Hezbollah or others from entering the fray as Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza continues.
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that Israel hit the Syrian international airports on Thursday, shutting both down, and then struck the Aleppo facility again on Saturday to take it down again. The attacks come as Israel is engaged in a full-scale war with Hamas to the south of Israel, following the unprecedented terror massacre of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians by Hamas.
While Israel doesn’t generally comment on strikes against Syria, Head of Strategic Affairs for Israelis Ministry of Foreign Affairs Joshua Zaka on X (formerly Twitter) openly acknowledged Israel’s motive behind the attacks was to stop Iran from arming enemies to the north. His comments came in response to a post on X by Director of American Center for Levant Studies Joel Rayburn stating that Israel’s airport attacks are a “strong indication” that Iran is “trying to move strategic weapons to or via Syria to open a northern front” and that Israel is “determined to preempt that.” Zaka replied, “1. They are 2. We are”.
The airstrikes come as an Israeli civilian was killed by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile in more northern fighting on Sunday. The Times of Israel report on the attack said that on Sunday alone, Hezbollah launched at least six anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets. Israel counterattacked, but does not sound interested in heating things up in the north. A spokesman in published comments to the IDF Hebrew website, translated by Google, reported the IDF “attacked Hezbollah infrastructure all day long. The organization is escalating on the northern border to challenge Israel… but we are focused on the goal—to fight Hamas and bring security to our citizens.”
In addition to the anti-tank missiles, the official IDF feed on X reported that nine rockets were fired in a barrage at Israel, with Israel intercepting five. The Times of Israel report said Hamas claimed responsibility for the rockets fired from Lebanon. Hamas terrorists are known to be hosted in various countries in the Middle East, not just Gaza.
Amidst the growing tensions to the north of Israel, the US is sending another aircraft carrier, as well as other warships and fighter jets, to the Middle East. And they are coming with a warning to any party looking to join the Israel-Hamas conflict. In a direct statement on Saturday from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin published to the Department of Defense website, Austin said he ordered the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to join the other carrier strike group in the eastern Mediterranean as “part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”
Austin noted that earlier last week they had announced the deployment of squadrons of F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft. “The increases to US force posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” said Austin.
On the diplomacy front, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in comments on Friday published by the State Department that a “big part” of his tour of the region was to work with nations to tell their contacts not to use the Israel-Hamas war as an opportunity to “choose to create more trouble in some other place.” With regard to a second front in the Israel-Hamas war, Blinken said this is “something that we’re very focused on. We have been from day one. We want to make sure that no other country or entity try to take advantage of the situation.”
Blinken pointed to warnings from US President Joe Biden to other actors not to get involved, implicitly including Iran and Hezbollah—with the US aircraft carrier group underscoring that warning. “So that’s clearly designed to help ensure that anyone contemplating getting engaged doesn’t do it,” said Blinken.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 15, 2023)