1. The launch of some 20 Iranian missiles at Israeli military sites, and Israel’s punishing response, is being called the most extensive confrontation in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
- The volley came as little surprise, being launched after numerous warnings from the Israeli military that the Iranians were going to try something. Likewise the response was little surprise, as Israel had vowed to hit them back hard.
- The Ynet news website calls the overnight exchange “the start of the Israel-Iran war.”
2. On Thursday morning, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Herzliya security conference that Israel’s response had destroyed “nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure during the overnight raids. Astute observers will note, though, that the military said something similar following the last major confrontation between the foes, and yet enough was apparently left for Iran to send much of northern Israel rushing into bomb shelters Wednesday night.
- While the army is saying the counterattack set back Iranian military entrenchment in Syria by several months, Haaretz correspondent Amos Harel counsels leaders against being too haughty: “we can only hope the gratuitous reveling in our invincible wondrousness won’t end up reminding us of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s boasting about Operation Density (aka “Fajr Night”), when the Israel Air Force claimed to have taken out all of Hezbollah’s long-range missile launchers and rockets on the second night of the Second Lebanon War in July 2006,” he writes.
- In Israel, the Iranian attack is being presented as a “failure,” the word used in Haaretz, with the army reporting that 4 rockets were shot down and the rest fell in Syria.
- On the other side of the fence, Syria and Iran are reporting on supposed Israeli failures, with official Damascus mouthpiece SANA being quoted in Iranian media saying that the Israeli missiles were “downed one after the other.”
- Russia’s government-funded Sputnik, meanwhile, reports that some 30 out of 60 missiles fired by Israel at Iranian targets in Syria were knocked down by the air defenses, casting doubts on Liberman’s claim.
3. Hezbollah mouthpiece al-Manar quotes the deputy head of Iran’s national security council as denying Tehran had any involvement in the missile attack, but most are not buying it.
- The Washington Post notes that some are tying the exchange to US president Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, which means Iran “has less to lose by retaliating, and the move has added weight to hard-liners in the Islamic Republic who want to show strength.”
- Similarly, TOI’s David Horovitz writes that “challenging days for the ruthless Iranian regime … may well make it all the more dangerous.”
- But the timing of Thursday morning’s barrage may have just been coincidental. The army is quoted in Yedioth saying it has been working over the last several weeks to disrupt Iranian attack plans, including blowing up “ticking time bombs.”
- “The preemptive operations … are only bolstering the motivation of the IRGC for revenge, for an immediate and extraordinary response that could take on some other form,” the paper writes cryptically.
4. Those preemptive attacks may have included a strike on an installation in Syria on Tuesday night, according to a bevy of cryptic and mostly unsourced reports.
- Israel Hayom’s story on the strike is headlined with the quote “The Israel air force attacked minutes before the rockets were launched,” though the quote or clues as to who said it do not actually appear in the story.
5. Because of the timing of Thursday morning’s barrage, coming just after midnight when most dailies close, what little coverage the print press has of the confrontation is mostly mixed in with that attack and the rising tensions.
- In Israel Hayom, seen as closely aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, columnist Gershon Hacohen gives a possible glimpse into the premier’s statement earlier this week that confrontation now is better than later by noting that thinking stability is worth any price is wrongheaded.
- “Out of a fear of losing stability by entering military conflict, defense policy in many countries, even Israel, is characterized by choosing the path of peace, in actuality, choosing to buy another day of quiet at the price of an even more severe fight down the road,” he writes.
6. The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff asks whether the next battle will be with Hezbollah, should IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani ask the powerful Lebanese proxy to step up against Israel.
- “Israel’s biggest fear isn’t what’s going on in Syria. At the end of the day, the bigger and more significant threat is a wider military conflict with the more important Iranian infrastructure in the area: Hezbollah,” he writes.
7. US State Department official Andrew Pick tells Yedioth Ahronoth that the Trump administration consulted with Israel before announcing the Iran deal pullout.
- “We consulted with Israel the whole way … we wanted to make sure we were closely aligned and that’s how it was,” he’s quoted saying.
- While not all Israelis were for the pullout, enough opposition figures went along with Netanyahu for Haaretz to chide them in its lead editorial and repeat the mantra that there is no real opposition in Israel: “The unanimity of parliamentary opinion regarding Israel’s moves in Syria and the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement is a warning light for Israeli democracy, and especially for Israel’s security.”
- Israel Hayom columnist Haim Shine, though, writes that Israelis should not be shy about feting their leader over Trump’s move.
- “Despite the Bibiphobia so pervasive in the media and on the left, the hostility has not had an effect on a vast majority of Israel’s citizens,” he writes. “They know how to cherish and appreciate the actions and achievements of Israel’s government under Netanyahu.”