Syrian war spillover

This item appears on page 18 of the April 2018 issue.

The civil war in Syria, ongoing since 2011, is increasingly involving other nations.

On Feb. 7, a US air strike against pro-government Syrian forces in eastern Syria resulted in the deaths of up to 100 Russian mercenaries, with Russian sources saying it was only five. Though the Russian military has conducted air strikes in support of the Syrian government, officially it has no military on the ground. 

On Feb. 11, an Iranian-made drone entered Israeli air space from Syria and was shot down. In response, Israeli jets targeted Iranian military outposts in Syria, including the area from which the drone was suspected to have taken off. One Israeli jet was downed by antiaircraft fire, with the pilot ejecting safely onto Israeli soil. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would attack Iran if Iran made any further incursions into Israel. Iran warned that it would “burn Tel Aviv to the ground” if Israel attacked any Iranian site.

On Feb. 20, pro-government Syrian forces entered the Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin at the behest of Kurds to help repel the Turkish military. Turkey had sent troops into Syria to attack Kurdish positions there. Turkey had warned that it would attack Syrian troops if they defended Kurdish positions, and it did shell the envoys of troops coming to assist the Kurds. On March 4, a Turkish air strike killed 36 Syrian troops in Afrin.

Meanwhile, in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, more than 500 civilians have been killed, including at least 50 children, and more than 1,000 have been injured in air and artillery strikes by the Syrian military that began on Feb. 20. A Syrian spokesperson described the attacks as “precision,” targeting only rebel troops. However, a UN report from the ground indicated that at least six hospitals were deliberately hit.