A top Israeli general has warned of the increasing potential of war with the Syrian regime and Iranian backed forces as they push deeper into the strategic border area with Israel and Lebanon in a new expansion of Tehran's influence in the war-torn country. "This year has the potential for escalation, and not necessarily because either side wants to initiate it, but because of gradual deterioration. This has led us to raise the level of preparedness," Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon told Army Radio on Monday, as reported by Israeli online newspaper, Jerusalem Post.
Worried by Iran's expanding influence in Syria after Daesh's defeat, Israel stepped up its strikes against suspected Iranian targets inside Syria. In its most serious confrontation with Iran since the Syrian war began in 2011, Israel shot down an Iranian drone earlier this month and struck Iranian targets deep in Syria before one of its own jets was downed. Israeli jets came under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire, and the pilots of one of the F-16s had to eject before the plane crashed in northern Israel. One pilot was seriously wounded, and the other escaped with light injuries. Israel would not confirm whether its aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the First Lebanon War.
Israel is technically at war with Syria and occupies a swathe of the strategic Golan Heights that it seized in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
Even though Israel has carried out several air raids on regime and Hezbollah positions, not just in the occupied Golan Heights but also on the outskirts of Damascus, Tel Aviv has so far avoided confronting Iran over regional conflicts. Instead, it has made several comments on Iran's pursuit of nuclear power and its tests of long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. As long as Iran has the power to dominate Damascus and mobilize Shiite groups, there will eventually be conflict with Israel. Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syria conflict but acknowledges carrying out dozens of airstrikes there to stop what it calls deliveries of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.
Israel is concerned over Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Lebanon. Israel has been targeting the Iran-backed Shiite militia group Hezbollah and regime forces in Syria with concerns that Hezbollah might target Israel at any given moment with new weapons supplied by Iran and Russia.
Israel is determined to take action against Hezbollah since Iran, allegedly, intends to build a military base near the disputed Golan Heights and has been building facilities to manufacture weapons inside Lebanon.