Quarterly Updates for (16 Feb 2017 — 15 May 2017)

Israeli interference in the Syrian civil war sparked a minor diplomatic crisis between Moscow and Tel Aviv this quarter. After the Israeli Air Force reportedly carried out air strikes against several Hezbollah positions in s. Syria late at night on 3/16, the Syrian govt. claimed that its forces had fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets in response and downed 1 of them. The Israeli govt. said no aircraft was damaged and the IDF later reported that its Arrow anti-missile system had intercepted (3/16) a Syrian missile heading toward Israeli territory. The following day (3/17), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow summoned the Israeli amb. for questioning about the incident, which Syria’s permanent rep. to the UN, Bashar Ja‘afari, described (3/19) as a “clear message” Russian pres. Vladimir Putin was sending to Israel. “The fact is that the Israeli amb. was . . . told categorically that this game is over,” he said, referring to the incident. The next day (3/20), Syrian pres. Bashar al-Asad indicated he was relying on Russia to play “an important role” in preventing a military conflict between Syria and Israel. PM Netanyahu reiterated the Israeli position on 3/21: “If there’s intelligence and operational feasibility, we strike, and we will continue to do so.” Through the rest of the quarter, the status quo held, despite Israeli strikes (4/23) against a pro-govt. militia nr. Qunaytra. The Israelis claimed this was in response to errant projectiles fired into Israel, and that they had struck (4/27) ammunition depots nr. the Damascus airport.