After over two years of sporadic Israeli air and missile attacks inside Syria, which Syria's military has been more aggressive in responding to of late, Israel has issued a rare statement revealing its medium to long-term strategy, saying it will soon step up "offensive action" in the country to ensure Iranian fighters depart.
Speaking to Ynet News on Wednesday the new Israeli Defense Minister, Naftali Bennett said, “We will go from preventive action to offensive action — the only measure that guarantees us the expulsion of Iran out of Syria.”
“We are warning them (the Iranians), we will turn Syria into an Iranian Vietnam, and you will continue to bleed until the last Iranian soldier leaves Syrian territory,” the nation's defense chief threatened.
Israel's latest attack on Damascus occurred last Thursday, which resulted in heavy damage at the Syrian capital's international airport, which media reports claim was used for Iranian weapons storage. Satellite imagery analysis source ImageSat said one of the more severely damaged buildings was “probably used for storing ammunition or [surface-to-air missiles].”
Syrian opposition media claimed that four members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and three Syrian soldiers were killed in the airstrikes. Israel has throughout the war often conducted attacks from over Lebanese airspace, targeting what it claims are Iranian assets inside Syria. Israel almost never provides confirmation it was behind these attacks, with Netanyahu quipping to reporters when asked about it: “I don’t know what happened at night. Maybe it was the Belgian air force.”
With the final battle for Idlib province now underway in the northwest, Assad has clearly emerged victorious in the war, making Tel Aviv increasingly anxious about Iran's continued entrenched presence in support of its ally.
In separate prior comments delivered on Tuesday, Defense Minister Bennett said Iran is changing its thinking inside Syria. “I can tell you that we are seeing the initial indications of Iran weakening and considering a new tack in Syria,” he told a military technology conference in Tel Aviv.
“[The Iranians] are sending forces in order to establish a presence there to exhaust us, but we are turning this disadvantage into an advantage. We have intelligence and operational superiority, and we are telling the Iranians clearly: Get out of Syria. There’s nothing for you here.”
“We are moving from a defensive position to an offensive position — to weaken, to exhaust, to tire and wear out the head of the octopus in order to weaken its arms,” Bennett said, using an analogy he employs frequently.
He also said recent anti-government demonstrations in Iran were a sign that the Iranian people were growing tired of the Ayatollah's "foreign adventurism" in places like Syria, and that they are telling their leaders "Stop wasting money and our blood on adventures".