After trying to stir-up a new war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on Monday, Iran forced the Israeli military to target its military build-up in Syria again.
Early Thursday morning, Israel Air Force (IAF) warplanes bombed several Iran-related military targets in the vicinity of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo (Halab in Arabic).
The IAF planes struck a military airport used by the Iranian axis and several ammunition depots killing between 7 and 25 members of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps according to Syrian media.
The Air War later reported on Twitter that a Fajr-5C workshop in the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone northeast of Aleppo had also been destroyed by the IAF.
The Quds Force is led by Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani and is currently making preparations for a future war against Israel.
The blasts, furthermore, caused an electricity blackout in Aleppo. The Syrian army mendaciously claimed it had shot down some of the Israeli missiles.
“The Israeli aggression targeted some positions in Sheikh Najjar industrial zone and a number of enemy missiles were brought down," Syrian dictator Assad’s mouthpiece SANA quoted an army statement.
Israel again departed from the long-standing practice of not commenting on military strikes in Syria when acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel Radio that “as far as Iran knows, it’s Israel” that carried out the assault.
“We are being credited by foreign media with an air force operation this past night against Iranian forces in Syria,” Katz said while adding that “according to the sources it’s Israel, and according to what the Syrians said and responded it’s Israel. As far as Iran knows it’s Israel.”
Katz also responded to a question about why the Israeli government had refrained from launching a new ground operation in Gaza after Islamic Jihad, on Iranian orders, shot a long-range Fajr rocket at central Israel destroying a house in Moshav Mishmeret and wounding 7 Israelis on Monday morning.
“There were other operations like this one that we have taken responsibility for,” according to Katz who claimed that the new IAF strikes in Syria were “far more challenging militarily, and much more powerful.”
The IAF operation near Aleppo came amid rising tensions about US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights which was captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Assad regime has vowed to liberate the mountainous plateau which was used for many years to terrorize the Israeli population in the Sea of Galilee region prior to the war and organized demonstrations against the American decision throughout Syria.
The Syrian tyrant recently also organized a three-country-summit in Damascus to discuss an increase in military and economic cooperation between Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
Iran, for its part, is currently trying to finish its land bridge from Teheran all the way to the Israeli border and the Mediterranean Sea. This is done by using the Iranian-founded Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias in Iraq to seize control over the northern part of the country and by continuing its entrenchment in Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed Israel will prevent the Iranian military build-up in Syria and the attempt to take over the war-torn country but it remains to be seen if the series of IAF strikes on weapon depots and transports will suffice to attain this goal.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) this week revealed that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is parlaying its military and economic might into a lasting foothold,” in Syria.
“Tehran is moving to cement its long-term influence in Syria by cultivating goodwill and winning converts to the Shiite Muslim sect,” according to the American paper.
The Iranians are busy attempting to “recreate the Persian empire” Muneer al-Khalaf a city council member of former ISIS Caliphate capital Raqqa told WSJ.
The Quds Force is supplying cash, food, Iranian ID cards, public services, and free education to Sunni Muslim Arabs in Syria while trying to win over converts to Shia Islam.
In the border city of Abukamal near Iraq, the Quds Force is wooing Syrian Sunni Arabs by distributing food and household items while men are being recruited for the Iranian-controlled Shiite militias, which have become an integral part of the Syrian army.
The men are offered Quds Force ID cards, monthly payments of $200 and jobs in exchange for conversion to Shia Islam.
“From every family, you find one or two people who have become Shiite,” al-Khalaf said adding that, “they say they do it so they can find jobs or they become Shiite so they can walk and no one bothers them.”
Local residents, a US official and someone familiar with US intelligence operations in Syria confirmed al-Khalaf’s observations.
A humanitarian aid worker toldWSJ that the Quds Force and its Shiite proxies are taking over mosques across Syria. They are, furthermore, in the process of setting up an Iranian education system and of acquiring real estate which had been abandoned by Syrian Arabs during the civil war.
“If you’re a student, they offer a scholarship. If you’re poor, they give you aid. Whatever your need is they fill it, just so you become Shiite,” the aid worker said.
Iran is using the same type of indoctrination Islamic State used to win over the Sunni Arabs residing in the eastern Syrian Province Deir ez-Zur, he told WSJ.
Many Syrian Arabs have already converted to Shia Islam, most likely because of the dire situation in Syria.
An estimated 89 percent of Syrians live in poverty, dependent on humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.
“Acute shortages of fuel, cooking gas and electricity have left citizens shivering in darkness through an unusually cold winter,” The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The paper said that Syrians who remained loyal to Assad are now increasingly expressing discontent with his regime as living conditions continue to worsen.
“This is the worst we have ever known. People can barely survive, and the percentage of poor is increasing all the time,” a Syrian living in Damascus told WaPo.