On Monday the 1st of July 2019, Israel launched a series of air- and sea-based strikes on Syria. The attacks were conducted on several Syrian and Iranian targets positioned in Damascus and Homs. More than 15 people were killed, including civilians and children, as a result of Israel’s belligerence. Syria's state news agency SANA reported that Syrian air defenses intercepted Israeli 'hostile missiles' in the latter's attempt to support 'its collapsing terrorist tools' in the country. Damascus defined Israeli actions as ‘state terrorism’ and demanded accountability through a complaint filed to the United Nations.
The strikes were conducted six days after the trilateral summit of the Russian, US, and Israeli security advisers that aimed at countering Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that Israel responds ‘decisively and forcibly to any attack against us’ only hours after the strikes. This was followed by satellite images shared by a private Israeli intelligence firm on one of the sites targeted in the attacks. The site was perceived as an Iran-linked hangar allegedly used for storing advanced weapon systems.
The Israeli strikes occurred in a context that witnessed important developments with the Lebanese Hezbollah, one of the Syrian Government’s main allies. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Hezbollah was secretly withdrawing its troops from Damascus and southern Syria. The exact number of withdrawn forces is still unknown; however, reports suggest that ‘large’ numbers of Hezbollah’s forces left Damascus and moved towards the countryside of Al-Zabadani west of Damascus. Hezbollah’s departure included the withdrawal of all Hezbollah-linked checkpoints and equipment. Syria’s National Defense Forces took over the areas and bases that previously fell under Hezbollah’s control.
Israel's Mossad Director Yossi Cohen also stated that Iran and Hezbollah strive to move their bases away from Damascus to Syria's north. He contended that this move would not make it difficult for his country to target its enemies. Notably, Hezbollah’s withdrawal reflects the party’s limited role in Syrian-Russian campaign in Idlib. Unlike Hezbollah’s prominence in previous battles, it plays a significantly scant role in the country’s remaining de-escalation zone in Idlib. However, there are still no official statements from Hezbollah’s side on the recent changes.