Tensions between the two nations have reached an all-time high after an F-16 jet was hit over northern Israel on Saturday as it returned from a raid on a Syrian position that was blamed for launching an Iranian-made drone across the border.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s military retaliated by destroying around half of Syria’s anti-aircraft batteries, according to an Israeli official who requested anonymity.
Senior analyst for Israel/Palestine at the International Crisis Group Ofer Zalzberg said this was a “turning point”.
He added: “It shows an exchange of blows between Israel and Iran.
“And it shows that Israel [has decided] to not only strike allies of Iran but Iranian targets, in spite of the risk involved in escalation as a result of this—the potentiality of Iranian casualties, primarily.
“It really makes it easier to speak of a direct Israeli-Iranian conflict, and of an increased probability of such incidents in the future.
“My impression is if Iran was willing to do something so significant, then this is only the beginning, and it is more likely that we will see, during the rest of 2018, that this incident was the preview to additional incidents.”
Tel Aviv has said it will press ahead with missions in Syria, where it has launched scores of sorties against suspected arms transfers to Iranian-sponsored Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
Iran is backing Syria in the raging conflict enveloping the region, much to Israel’s alarm.
Israel has accused Iran of building precision-guided missile factories for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
When asked about the Obama-Kerry Iranian nuclear deal, Mr Zalzberg said: “As I see it, the war that could be triggered is primarily an Israeli-Hezbollah war, who had another one in 2006. I don’t see the Iranian army [getting involved here].
“In Europe and some parts of the US, [however], they think all of this would not have happened had it not been for the nuclear deal. And I think they overstate it.”
Syria and Hezbollah celebrated the F-16 shoot-down as a blow to Israeli military superiority.
Israel’s Army Radio said on Tuesday that investigators believed pilot error – rather than Syrian capabilities – were mainly at fault for the F-16’s failure to evade what was probably an aged SA-5 missile.
Syria and Hezbollah celebrated the F-16 shoot-down
Speaking to Vice, he concluded: “The risk of full-fledged war, conventional war, between Israel and Iran is still very low. But the risk of war between Israel and Hezbollah that is triggered by events in Syria is increasing by the day.
The expert went on to say that the potential of a war between Israel Hezbollah was the most likely
“Or do they feel that this is too risky and perhaps it’s better to let Assad try this alone, even if he doesn’t succeed? Here there is debate internally. I think Netanyahu’s strong reaction feeds that debate.
“We could see a major escalation even though neither side wants it.”