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

The IDF continued to interfere in the Syrian civil war this quarter, particularly during one significantly violent week in late 6/2017. On 6/24, after 10 errant projectiles fired from Syria landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Israeli fighter jets launched air strikes on the purported site of the projectile fire, reportedly killing 2 Syrian soldiers. The IDF attacked sites in Syria in response to errant fire on each of the next 2 days, but there were no reports about injuries or damage. On 6/27, the IDF declared an area along the border a closed military zone, barring most civilians from entering (although farm workers were allowed to remain). They reopened the area on 6/28, and 3 more days of minor cross-border violence followed, with no reports of injuries or damage.

A few weeks later, news broke that Israeli diplomats were in talks with Russian, U.S., and Jordanian interlocutors about another possible cease-fire in the Syrian conflict. On the sidelines of a meeting of the G20 on 7/7, U.S. pres. Trump and Russian pres. Vladimir Putin announced an agreement that beginning on 7/9, Russian troops, in coordination with U.S. and Jordanian forces, would enforce a cease-fire in 3 regions of southwestern Syria nr. the borders with Israel and Jordan. U.S. secy. of state Tillerson called (7/7) the deal “our first success.”

Although Israeli diplomats were involved in the talks leading to the agreement, the Israeli govt. was displeased with the result. Israeli PM Netanyahu criticized (7/16) it for allowing Iranian and Hezbollah forces to continue operating in southwestern Syria. “The agreement as it is now is very bad,” another senior Israeli official said. “It doesn’t take almost any of Israel’s security interests [into account] and it creates a disturbing reality in s. Syria” (Haaretz, 7/16). In response to Netanyahu’s public criticism, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said (7/17) that Russia and the U.S. would do what they could to address Israeli concerns. Two weeks later, after further talks, Tillerson updated (8/2) the U.S. position, saying that the U.S. would only cooperate with Russia in Syria if Iranian forces left the country: “They must leave and go home, whether those are [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)] forces or whether those are paid militias, foreign fighters, that Iran has brought into Syria in this battle.” Negotiations between all parties continued through the end of the quarter.