At least 57 people died after an Israeli bombardment on eastern Syria on Wednesday (13), according to a statement released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH). According to the NGO, this is the deadliest attack carried out by Israel since the start of the war in Syria in 2011.
The attack, confirmed by Sana, the Syrian state news agency, comes in a phase of escalating Israeli offensives against Iranian targets – it is the fourth of its kind in two weeks – and hours after Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel “will continue to act against those who attempt to challenge” the country.
“We are not sitting and waiting. We are on the defensive, politically and economically active,” Gantz said, during a visit to the Syrian-Israeli border.
Although it has maintained the position of not confirming or denying its operations in Syrian territory, Israel – whose Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu is an ally of Donald Trump – took a more aggressive stance ahead of the inauguration of the President-elect of the United Nations. United States, Joe Biden, who could reassess the policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran.
According to Sana, the bombings struck places in Al Bukamal, a Syrian town that controls the border post on the main road between Damascus and Baghdad, in Iraq, and which forms a supply route between Iran and the Allied fighters in Syria and Lebanon. .
Deir Ezzor province, which hosts fighting groups of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Tehran-backed militias, was also one of the targets. Israel’s objective, according to Syrian reports, was to destroy arms depots and military posts in those areas.
The report published by OSDH indicates that among the dead are 14 members of the Syrian forces and 43 militants of pro-Iranian groups, including 16 Iraqis and 11 Afghans belonging to the Fatimid Brigade, a Shiite militia organized by the Revolutionary Guards. Iranians.
A U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press, on condition of anonymity, that Wednesday’s attacks were part of a war secretly endorsed by the Trump administration.
According to the official, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Yossi Cohen, head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, on Tuesday to discuss the airstrike on Syria.
In December, General Aviv Kochavi, chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, published a report in which he stressed that his country had reached more than 500 Syrian targets in 2020, with the aim of restricting the Iranian military presence in Syria.
The Israeli offensives could lose an important Western ally with the end of Trump’s tenure, as Biden, as the next White House occupant, has shown signs that he will take less aggressive stances in his dealings with Israel.
The Democrat is opposed, for example, to settlements made by Israel in the West Bank. Palestinians criticize the installation of houses in these places because the presence of housing prevents the creation of a Palestinian state, which they have sought for decades.
“We are here to stay. We will continue to build in the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote on a social network announcing the construction of 800 new houses in the settlements.
Last year, Trump even attempted to negotiate a peace deal in the region. According to the plan, backed by the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinians would end up with fragmented territory, connected by roads and tunnels. The proposal was rejected by the Palestinians, who refused to participate in the negotiation because they considered the project very favorable to Israel.
In November, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited a settlement in the West Bank and said he assessed that the construction of these houses did not violate international law, making Washington’s position on the matter official.
However, much of the international community – including the UN and the European Union – disagrees with this understanding, and Biden’s leadership is expected to revert to the previous position of the government, that Israel should not build housing in the areas in question. dispute.