(Photo credit: The Arab Weekly)
Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, said during a conference on 24 March that Israel must balance its security interests in Syria – where it coordinates with Russia – with its “moral obligation” to aid Ukraine amid the Russian military operation.
“We condemned the invasion, sent a field hospital to Ukraine, but we must prevent the possibility that one Israeli pilot will be shot down in Syria and taken prisoner … Think what this will do to Israeli society,” Lapid said, suggesting that support for Ukraine could potentially place Israeli jets in Syria within the Russian line of fire.
Despite this, however, Hebrew newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on 25 March that reserve members of the Israeli military, who hail from the elite commandos unit known as the General Staff Company, have been training Ukrainian volunteers to fight against Russia.
The report revealed that the Israeli military establishment is aware of this secret operation and has turned a blind eye to it, contradicting Lapid’s comments on finding a balance between Russia and Ukraine.
Russian ambassador to Syria, Alexander Efimov, said on the same day that Tel Aviv’s strikes in Syria are “provoking” Moscow to react, and that Israeli attacks on the country are intended to “escalate tensions and allow the West to carry out military activities in Syria.”
The ambassador’s remarks have been described one of Russia’s strongest condemnations of Israel’s illegal military activity in Syria.
Despite denouncing Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, Israel has hesitated to fully align itself to the US position.
According to a joint investigative report by The Guardian and the New York Times, Israel blocked Ukraine from buying Israel’s controversial Pegasus spyware in order to appease Moscow.
In January, Russian and Syrian air forces carried out their first joint patrols along Syria’s borders, including near the occupied Golan Heights, in what the Russian Ministry of Defense said will be a regular series of flights.
Experts agree that these joint Russian-Syrian flights will significantly increase the ability of the Syrian Air Force to protect its airspace from illegal Israeli violations and strikes against the country.
Israel’s last illegal strike on Syria took place on 7 March, where it targeted sites near the Damascus airport and the Al-Assad suburb, killing two IRGC officers.
Iran retaliated by launching a missile strike on an Israeli Mossad base in the city of Erbil in Iraq on 13 March.