By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
After the August 24 airstrikes in Syria Israel has put out a number of statements rapidly.
These include the official IDF Press Release:
IDF fighter jets recently targeted a number of terror targets in Aqraba, Syria, southeast of Damascus. The strike targeted Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days. The thwarted attack included plans to launch a number of armed drones intended to be used to strike Israeli sites.
The IDF Twitter account,
IDF Tweet: BREAKING: We just prevented a pending, large-scale attack of multiple killer drones on Israel by striking Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite Militia targets in Syria.
And also Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement,
PM Benjamin Netanyahu “In a major operational effort, we have thwarted an attack against Israel by the Iranian Quds Force & Shi’ite militias. I reiterate: Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression. ‘If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.'”
There are also the Hebrew IDF tweets
This presents a picture of Israeli statements. The statements may be designed for the public or global consumption, but also may be related to messaging to other countries, such as Russia and Iran. It is worth looking back at what we know about previous statements.
Israeli statements about the number of strikes
It was August 17, 2017 that the first acknowledgement of Israel’s deepening involvement in Syria was announced. This happened during a discussion where Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, said “When Israel has a vested interest, it acts irrespective of the risks,” revealing for the first time Israel had struck in Syria against arms convoys to Hezbollah.
Israel appeared to admit more airstrikes in September 2018. In this statement a senior IDF source was reported at The Jerusalem Post and Ynet that Israel had carried out 200 airstrikes in a year and a half. According to the reports “In total, some 800 missiles and bombs were launched at targets on Syrian soil, the majority by IAF fighter jets.”
In January 2019, speaking in a January 11 interview with the New York Times, Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said Israel had attacked “thousands of Iranian targets in Syria” since 2017, adding that “Israel is now safer than four years ago…We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit.”
With these statements in mind let’s look at the past year’s statements from several IDF sources.
Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick is quoted on June 19 at a ceremony in honor of Israeli combat soldiers from 1948 “We’re in a complex security situation. Iran is trying to turn Syria into an Iranian-controlled outpost.”
June 30 “Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot continues meetings with the Chairman of the JCoS, Gen. Dunford. Their talks have focused on joint monitoring of Iran‘s military activity in the region and security along Israel’s borders.”
After news of the downing of the Russian plane in the midst of an IDF airstrike. “Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident.”
IDF then noted: “Overnight, IDF fighter jets targeted a facility of the Syrian Armed Forces from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
In the wake of Syrian air defense downing a Russian plane in September 2018, IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin flew to Moscow on September 19 with a delegation. They discussed the air strike near Latakia that led to the downing, and “in addition, they will present the continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria,” according to an IDF press release. The IDF “presented the ongoing Iranian attempts to establish its military presence in Syria and to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization,” according to a September 20 statement.
September 23: “the IDF will continue to operate in accordance with the directives of the Israeli Government against Iran’s incessant attempts to establish itself in Syria and to arm the terrorist organization Hezbollah with lethal and accurate weapons.”
IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis mentions Iran and Syria in the context of tensions with Hamas and Gaza.
IDF says “30+ rockets were launched from Gaza to Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad with Iran‘s encouragement.”
The IDF says the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot visited the 210th Division and Northern Command on November 20. “The Chief of the General Staff commended the forces for their actions to prevent Iranian consolidation in Syria and Iranian attempts to transfer accurate weapons to the terror organization Hezbollah.”
“We will continue to act in order to thwart #Iran‘s attempts to provide Hezbollah with precise weapons or capabilities,” said the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
December 6: “Iran annually funnels $1 billion to Hezbollah in Lebanon for terror – including attack tunnels into Israel.” This is in relation to Israel’s anti-tunneling operation Northern Shield launched on December 4.
December 12, IDF delegation to Moscow, led by the Head of the Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, notes “the IDF also presented its policy to continue operating to prevent Iranian entrenchment and the arming of Hezbollah in Syria.”
December 18 IDF releases video of a tunnel, “this Hezbollah attack tunnel dug from Lebanon into Israel was funded by Iran & costs millions of dollars.” Further statements follow on December 19and 21.
On January 17 working meetings between a delegation of senior officers from the Russian Armed Forces and their IDF counterparts was concluded. The meetings were led by the Head of the Operations Directorate, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Asor. “The meetings were
conducted in a good and professional atmosphere, and included promoting and improving the mechanism to prevent friction between the two militaries in the northern arena and the IDF’s activities against Iranian entrenchment and the arming of Hezbollah in Syria.”
On January 21 the IDF said it was striking IRGC-Quds Force targets. The statement just after midnight included a longer statement later. “The IDF is currently striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory. The IDF warns the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli territory or forces.” The longer statement notes: “yesterday (Sunday), Iranian Quds forces operating in Syrian territory launched a surface-to-surface rocket from Syrian territory aimed at the northern Golan Heights in Israel. The IDF’s Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted the rocket.” In response “IDF fighter jets struck Iranian Quds Forces military targets in Syria in addition to Syrian aerial defense batteries. The following military targets were struck as part of the IDF’s attack targeting the Iranian Quds military sites in Syria: munition storage sites and a site located in the Damascus International Airport, an Iranian intelligence site and an Iranian military training camp.” The IDF hit defense batteries after missiles were launched. “In firing towards Israeli territory yesterday, Iran once again offered definitive proof of its real intentions of its entrenchment in Syria, which endangers the State of Israel and regional stability.” The Hermon ski resort was closed as well.
On Twitter the IDF releases a map and notes “firing towards Israeli civilians, Iran once again proved that it is attempting to entrench itself in Syria, endangering the State of Israel & regional stability. We will continue operating determinedly to thwart these attempts.”
IDF tweets about the anniversary of Iran’s revolution on February 11 and 15.
IDF tweets about “what do Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Syria have in common?” A video shows Iran’s influence.
March 21: “Do you know what else can help the economic problems in Iran? Spending the $1 billion you spend every year on your proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, & Palestinian Islamic Jihad & entrenchment in Syria on the people of Iran instead.”
April 22, “Iran appointed THIS man to be the new commander of the IRGC. Recently, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami.”
May 5. The IDF says it struck Ahmed Khudari, “who was responsible for money transfer from Iran to Gaza-Based terror organizations.” A video shows the targeting. “Earlier today, we targeted Hamed Ahmed Khudari in Gaza. He was responsible for transferring Iranian money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The funds were used to build the hundreds of rockets recently fired at Israel. Iran will need to find a new money man in Gaza.”
IDF on Twitter, July 23: “For the last year, the Iranian Quds Force has been smuggling missile manufacturing equipment purchased from CIVILIAN companies through CIVILIAN ports directly into the hands of Hezbollah. Well Iran, if you’d planned to keep this a secret—that ship has sailed.”
IDF Tweet August 25: “We just prevented a pending, large-scale attack of multiple killer drones on Israel by striking Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite Militia targets in Syria.”
September 1: Anti-tank missiles fired from Lebanon
September 3: IDF reveals details of Hezbollah facility at Nabi Chit in Bekaa valley, says it is used to design and convert precision guided missiles and was established by Iran and Hezbollah.
September 9: “IDF: Earlier this morning, a number of rockets were launched from Syria towards Israel, all failed to hit Israeli territory. The rockets were launched from the outskirts of Damascus by Shiite militia operatives operating under the Iranian Quds Force. The IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for all events taking place in Syria.”