Israel strikes Syrian targets near Jordan as impact of Gaza war spreads

It was the second Israeli strike on army positions in Deraa governorate in less than a week

Syrian military in Deraa, where army positions have been hit by Israeli air strikes. Reuters
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Israeli forces struck Syrian army positions in the southern governorate of Deraa on Monday, Damascus said, in an escalation of hostilities in border areas near Jordan, as concerns grow that the war in Gaza could expand into the Levant.

It was the second Israeli strike on military targets in Deraa in less than a week. On Wednesday, the Syrian military said eight of its personnel were killed in several Israeli strikes in the area.

The official Syrian news agency said the attack on Monday caused "material damage".

Syrian and Israeli sources said the two Israeli raids were in response to rockets fired from Deraa on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights. The rockets have been part of sporadic attacks from Syria and Lebanon after the outbreak of the war on October 7.

Authorities in Jordan do not usually comment on violence in Syria but on Sunday the Jordanian military said it has requested Patriot defences from the US to counter a new ballistic missile threat, without giving details.

Jordanian officials, however, view an array of militias supported by Iran, which are widely believed to be active in Deraa and in the adjacent Quneitra and Suweida governorates, as a threat to Jordanian national security.

Among them are Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the main partner of Hamas in Gaza, and Liwa Al Quds, whose ranks are mainly drawn form Palestinian refugees in Aleppo.

The Israeli strike on Monday targeted positions belonging to the Syrian army's 112th mechanised brigade and an artillery battery formation east of the city of Nawa, say sources in the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Al Assad.

Nawa is 10 kilometres from the border with Jordan.

Syrian opposition media outlets published copies of what they said were leaflets dropped by Israeli planes, saying "Palestinian terrorist factions" are continuing to fire rockets on Israeli targets.

"The leaders of the Syrian army, specifically the 112th brigade, bear full responsibility for all sabotage acts launched from Syrian territory," said the leaflets, the authenticity of which could not be immediately confirmed.

The violence has escalated in the south as Israel intensified air raids on Aleppo and Damascus airports, which are seen as a centre in a supply chain from Iran to its militia proxies in the Levant.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told Al Jazeera last week that if the Israeli operation in Gaza does not stop, "it is highly probable" that many other fronts could open.

Commanders in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have also hinted at the possibility of a regional war, saying the IRGC could directly attack Israel if the conflict continues.

But neither Iran nor an array of Middle East militias with allegiance to Tehran have carried out high-intensity, sustained attacks that would raise the possibility of a regional war.

The Lebanese Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militias expanded their presence in southern Syria after a 2018 deal between the US, Israel and Russia, the most powerful backer of Damascus.

Lebanon-Israel border clashes intensify

Lebanon-Israel border clashes intensify

Under the deal, the Syrian army captured most of southern Syria from rebel brigades fighting against Mr Al Assad, on the condition that Iranian militias would stay away from border areas.

The arrangement was not adhered to, Jordanian and other Arab officials said.

Last year, the authorities in Amman warned about the presence of the militias on the kingdom's borders, accusing them of supervising a narcotics smuggling chain that runs through Jordan to inner Arabia,

Southern Syria was where the 2011 revolt against the 23-year rule of Mr Al Assad started.

The uprising became militarised by the end of the year, after the authorities used force to crush the peaceful protest movement that had spread from Deraa to most of the rest of Syria, except in Alawite areas, whose inhabitants belong to the same minority religious sect as the President.

Updated: October 30, 2023, 11:19 AM