Israeli jets carried out a bombing operation in Syria on Tuesday — a very dangerous escalation of the increasing regionalisation of the Syrian civil war. The action was a clear violation of the UN Charter and an unwarranted act of aggression. It is not yet clear what the Israelis bombed. The Syrian government claims that a military research centre was destroyed, but other sources including western diplomats and Syrian rebels, say that the Israelis hit an arms convoy meant for the Hezbollah.
But even before knowing exactly what the Israelis bombed, the act of carrying out such a raid is a very dangerous step. The fact that Israel was able to launch a bombing raid with impunity is a stark reminder to both the Syrian government and opposition that Israel is still the region’s pre-eminent military power, and is willing to use this power as it sees fit with no reference to any legal or moral compulsions.
As the fighting in Syria has spread, the government has brought in forces from Iran, and the opposition has a variety of allied forces fighting independently alongside its forces, or taking orders from Coalition commanders. These include a variety of Islamists who have come to join the fighting in Syria.
The Kurds have also organised a militia of several thousand fighters in the north-east. And these are only a few of many others who have joined the fighting, but have not yet been put on record.
It is important to note that these Iranian, Israeli, Kurdish and Islamist forces are not fighting for Syria. They are in the war for their own purposes, seeking to take tactical advantage in the chaos of the civil war from which they want to grab some long term strategic advantage when a settlement finally emerges.
Their blatant opportunism poses a real problem for Syrian politicians as they try to find a negotiated way forward. This is partly why opposition leader Muath Al Khatib faced such trouble from his supporters when he suggested that he might be ready to talk to the government if his conditions were met.