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Senior Analyst from Le Beck talks to the Wall Street Journal

Israel’s blistering counterattack to Iranian rocket fire at its soldiers early Thursday shows the country is determined to dislodge Tehran’s forces in Syria from its border, despite the risk of a wider Middle East war.

In what the Israeli military called its largest-ever operation inside Syria, warplanes made dozens of strikes against key Iranian infrastructure, an overwhelming response after an Iranian unit in Syria fired about 20 short-range artillery rockets that Israel said were either shot down or fell short of a nearby military base.

The U.S. and Israel are concerned about Iran’s exploitation of the instability of Syria’s seven-year war to spread its influence, with officials saying they see its activities there as part of Iran’s efforts to project power in the wider region.

Israel’s military wants to prevent Tehran from building up military capabilities in Syria comparable to those in neighboring Lebanon, where it has nurtured the Shiite militia Hezbollah and helped it confront Israel militarily, according to Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence.

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Le Beck quoted in the Business Insider on Putin and wiping wipe out Iran in Syria in a massive air war

Russia has typically not acknowledged the Israeli incursions, but the fighting escalated massively on Wednesday night.

The IDF told Israel’s Channel 10 News that more than 50 targets were hit in the strike, making it the largest attack carried out by Israel in Syria since the two signed an agreement following the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

Israel said that around 1 a.m. local time, 20 Iranian Grad and Fajr rockets came streaking intoward northern Israel. The rockets, Israel said, were either intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system or fell short of their targets.

The Iranian barrage was expected. Israel had opened bomb shelters and warned its citizens of an impending attack after several suspected Israeli airstrikes had killed Iranians in Syria and laid waste to hundreds of rockets.

After the salvo, 28 Israeli jets flew over Syria, firing nearly 60 rockets and 10 surface-to-surface missiles, said Michael Horowitz, an analyst at the security consultancy LeBeck International, citing Russia’s defense ministry.

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Le Beck and The Washington Post: Israel launches massive military strike against Iranian targets in Syria

Israeli officials have downplayed a link between the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the immediate escalation in tensions, though Israelis in the Golan Heights were ordered to open their bomb shelters at the very moment President Trump made his announcement.

Before the United States made its decision about the nuclear accord, Iran faced a “strategic uncertainty” over what would happen and did not want to take the risk of striking back, said Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at Le Beck International, a Middle East-based geopolitical and security consulting firm. “That encouraged Tehran to be careful.”

Israel, meanwhile, was looking for a chance to press its efforts at rolling back the Iranian presence in Syria, he said. “Israel was searching for an opportunity to really escalate its efforts.”

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Snr analyst from Le Beck discussed Israeli threats to “kill” Bashar al-Assad should Iran continue to use the Syrian territory to threaten Israel

L’obsession israélienne d’endiguer l’influence iranienne dans la région, notamment en Syrie, ne faiblit pas. Alors que l’État hébreu multiplie les menaces et les opérations éclairs contre les positions de Téhéran en territoire syrien, un responsable israélien s’en est directement pris hier au régime du président syrien Bachar el-Assad, alors que l’Iran est l’un des parrains de Damas, aux côtés de Moscou. « Israël n’a pas été impliqué dans la guerre civile (syrienne) jusqu’à présent », a déclaré Yuval Steinitz, le ministre israélien de l’Énergie et membre du cabinet de sécurité, au site d’information israélien Ynet.

Faisant référence à la présence de troupes iraniennes en Syrie, M. Steinitz a précisé qu’« il est inacceptable qu’Assad siège tranquillement dans son palais et reconstruise son régime tout en permettant à la Syrie d’être transformée en base pour nous attaquer, il doit comprendre qu’il signera sa fin et la fin de son régime ». Et « si le président syrien continue d’autoriser l’Iran à opérer en territoire syrien, Israël le liquidera et renversera son régime », a-t-il menacé. Interrogé sur la possibilité pour Israël d’assassiner le président syrien, M. Steinitz a répondu que ce dernier « pourrait le payer de son sang ». Toutefois, si ses propos sont explicites à ce sujet sur le site internet du quotidien, l’écoute de l’entretien ne « semble pas corroborer » les citations du ministre dans l’article en ligne, souligne l’agence Reuters. M. Steinitz a également précisé plus tard que ses commentaires reflétaient son opinion personnelle et non des plans tangibles de l’administration israélienne.

En adoptant une rhétorique visant directement Damas, « Israël veut à la fois influencer Bachar el-Assad et la Russie en menaçant de ne plus simplement intervenir dans la crise syrienne contre des cibles iraniennes, mais bien contre les capacités du régime elles-mêmes », explique à L’Orient-Le Jour Michael Horowitz, spécialiste du Moyen-Orient à LeBeck International, un think tank basé à Bahreïn. « C’est une stratégie d’escalade qui vise à faire comprendre à Moscou et Damas que le coût de la présence iranienne est élevé », poursuit-il.

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Le Beck senior analyst on Shi’ite Militia groups in Syria to do Irans dirty work, strike Israel

“But it still remains the case that Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which maintains some bases in Syria, is the most likely and capable of carrying out an attack,” Tamimi said.

According to Michael Horowitz, senior regional analyst at Middle-East-based geopolitical consultancy Le Beck, having Hezbollah carry out the attack would go against Tehran’s plans, which are said to include trying to avoid a full-fledged war with Israel.

“This would defeat the purpose of using Shi’ite militias, which in my opinion, was meant to enable Iran to respond without actually provoking an escalation,” Horowitz told The Post.

According to intelligence, Iran, which is reported to be very determined to carry out an attack, has claimed to be in the advanced planning stages and may soon execute the retaliatory attack that it had vowed to carry out in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike against the T-4 airbase near Homs, used by the IRGC two months ago.

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Michael Horowitz, director of intelligence at Prime Source, a Middle East-based geopolitical consultancy firm, told The Jerusalem Post that this Israeli strike is significant due to its location, which is close to both a Russian air defense base as well a suspected Iranian missile production facility.

While Israel has a “de-conflict” mechanism with Moscow and has implemented a system in order to avoid accidental clashes over Syria, according to Horowitz, the reports that Israel carried out the strike from Lebanese airspace “was likely meant to decrease the risk of a Russian response – whether or not Moscow would indeed approve of such a response.”

In March, the IAF struck several targets in Syria, one of which nearly hit Russian troops in the area, and led to Moscow summoning the Israeli ambassador in protest. Thursday’s strike came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, where he reiterated Israel’s redlines.

According to Horowitz, “One of the goals of the strike was to push Russia to take into consideration Israeli concerns and show that otherwise Israel would act unilaterally, without Putin’s approval.”

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Snr Analyst Michael Horowitz talks to the Telegraph: Iranians killed in suspected Israeli strike’ in Syria

Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy, said the strikes were deeper into Syria than Israeli forces usually venture and that the attack in Hama appeared to involve massive weaponry to penetrate the mountainside.

“The context is very important because we are a few weeks away from the possible collapse of the Iran nuclear agreement and the possibility that Iran will resume its nuclear programme. I think this strikes sends a message to Iran that Israel can strike these underground facilities,” Mr Horowitz said.

Israel has been appealing for months to both Russia and the US to use their influence to rein in Iran’s military build up in Syria. So far, its diplomatic efforts have yielded little success.

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Michael Horowitz talks with the Telegraph: Donald Trump’s threats clear Syrian regime warplanes from the skies

Analysts believe the lull in the bombing is a result of Assad’s forces rushing to move their aircraft to Russian bases in Syria, which are less likely to be targeted by American missiles.

“Since Trump tweeted its initial threats the regime has completely changed its military deployments, particularly its air force, which in turn disrupted its air campaign,” said Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy.

“In a way, the mere threat of action has already been enough to save lives on the ground,” he added.

Airstrikes by Russian and regime aircraft are normally a daily occurrence in Idlib, a rebel-held province in northwest Syria. But residents there said they had enjoyed several days of quiet since Mr Trump first issued his threats.

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Daily Beast: Trump’s Hit-and-Split Approach to Syria Has Israelis Worried

TEL AVIV—President Donald Trump may think he’s projecting strength and determination with his tweets and, perhaps soon, some variation on limited strikes against Syria. But concern that the United States of Trump may abandon Israel just as the distance to Iran has shrunk from 1,000 miles to zero has gripped Jerusalem like a fever.

For more than three years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used every public opportunity to warn the world of the dangers of Iran’s escalating presence in Syria, now meters away from residential communities along Israel’s northern border.

…“There’s a lot of confusion in Israel about Trump’s stance,” says Michael Horowitz,  a senior analyst specializing in Israel and Syria at Bahrain’s Le Beck Institute. “The Israelis are puzzled by the American strategy in Syria and concerned there’s no real commitment to roll back Iranian influence in Syria.”

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“Get ready Russia” – Senior Analyst Michael Horowitz talks to The Telegraph

Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy, said that the regime would probably move its most sensitive equipment close to Russian forces, in the hope that the US would be less likely to hit it and risk accidentally striking Russian troops.

“The Syrian military has already had time to take some contingency measures and evacuate some of the potential targets Washington could decide to strike, which could limit the impact of any possible American intervention,” he said.

“The Syrian air force in particular will likely redeploy to Russian or Russian-protected air base, in a bid to limit its exposure.”

Syrian regime aircraft could be moved to Khmeimim, the main Russian base in northwest Syria, or else clustered around known Russian positions inside of Syrian regime bases.

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