TEL AVIV — The next few days may well be the most challenging and fateful period that Israel’s security establishment has contended with for decades. Not since the 1967 Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War has the Jewish state been confronted with such direct threats on its borders.
On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released satellite photos showing the devastation its warplanes wreaked on Iranian bases during Wednesday night’s bombing campaign that marked the largest IDF action inside Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This after Iranian forces in Syria fired a volley of about 20 rockets aimed at IDF positions in the Golan Heights – the first time Iran was accused of directly rocketing Israel.
This week’s exchanges followed numerous airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel targeting Iran-run bases in territory controlled by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Those strikes came after Iran brazenly dispatched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into Israeli territory in February before it was quickly shot down by the Israeli military. An IDF investigation revealed the Iranian drone, sent from the Iran-run T-4 airbase in Syria, was carrying explosives and seemingly deployed to attack an Israeli target.
The IDF says its major strikes in Syria have set back Iran’s military infrastructure in that country by many months. Still, Israel has warned that Iran likely maintains more hardware, especially missile silos, hidden in the country. The vast Hezbollah missile and larger militant infrastructure in Lebanon remains entirely unscathed and can be utilized by Iran at any time.
While Iran stands to massively lose from another round of Israeli bombardment in Syria and Tehran must be careful not to provoke another fierce response, the thinking among Israeli security ranks here is that the Iranians are likely to retaliate in some form, either directly or through proxies. When and how are open for debate.
Iran has numerous strike possibilities and Israel must be on its highest alert for every scenario. Tehran can directly rocket Israel from Syria or less likely from Lebanon. Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah or other Shiite militias can launch projectiles or attempt to infiltrate the Golan Heights. Iran can also attack a Jewish or Israeli target overseas using one of the many terrorist organizations the Mullahs support. Any attack from Lebanon would risk the immediate opening of a new front against Israel.
Meanwhile, the Jewish state next week must contend with numerous other potential threats, some of which can be easily fueled by Iran.
On Sunday, Israelis will celebrate Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s reunification of its capital city. On this day in 1967, Israel took eastern Jerusalem from illegal Jordanian occupation, including the ancient Old City, which houses historic Jewish neighborhoods and Judaism’s holiest site the Temple Mount. Due to the shifting political dynamics these last months, Palestinian terrorist groups – some directly financed by Iran – are more likely than ever to use this year’s Jerusalem Day to provoke attacks.
Israel’s security forces will step up deployment throughout Jerusalem the next day as well. Monday will see the official opening of the new U.S. embassy building in Jerusalem, another occasion that could be hijacked by Palestinian groups, including Iran-backed terrorist organizations, to provoke chaos.
And on Tuesday, Palestinians commemorate so-called Nakba Day, which essentially mourns the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding. The IDF, already deployed to the North to contend with the Syria threat, will need to defend against Hamas’s announced plot to escalate terror riots along the Gaza-Israel border. In fact, Hamas is planning its largest escalation yet for Tuesday, prompting the IDF’s Gaza Division and Southern Command to deploy along the Gaza border to protect against the coming surge. One need not be a military tactician to view Tuesday’s Gaza riots as an opportune time for Iran to launch a provocation from the North.
As Shabbat, the day of rest, begins here in Israel, the country prepares for the most critical days since its previous wars.