Under Cover of COVID-19, Israel Seems to Intensify Its Attacks Against Iran in Syria

An airstrike attributed to Israel on Monday night in the Aleppo area, in northern Syria, appears to be significant, looking at its scope, its relatively distant location and the target itself – a Syrian agency said to be a vital component of Iran's efforts to arm Hezbollah.

According to reports in Arab media outlets, the site that was targeted belongs to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, the country's most important defense industry agency, responsible for developing weaponry, including chemical and biological weapons.

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These days, the reports from Syria arrive several times a week. According to the Syrian media, the Israeli Air Force is constantly attacking various military targets in large swaths of the country: arms storehouses, weapons plants, surface-to-air missile batteries, observation posts along the Israeli border. Every member of the Shi’ite axis led by Iran – the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, foreign Shi’ite militias, Hezbollah and units of the Syrian army – is in the line of fire.

This isn't the first time an Israeli strike on the Syrian research center's facilities has been reported. Western intelligence sources have described the agency as having a major part in Tehran's backing of Lebanon-based Hezbollah, and particularly in improving the precision of the Shi'ite group's rockets.

Contrary to its custom in recent years, Israel seems to have lowered the media profile of its attacks a little. Air Force strikes in Syria began in 2012, early on in the country’s civil war, but greatly intensified in the second half of that decade.

At first, the strikes mainly targeted convoys smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria. Then, starting in late 2017, attacks on bases serving the Revolutionary Guards and Shi’ite militias began, as part of the effort to prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.

The attacks were initially deliberately shrouded in an effort to keep the Syrian regime from tightening its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah while not embroiling Israel in Syria’s civil war. But over the last two years, Israel began scattering broad hints.