An analysis by Samuel Ramani PhD, tutor of politics and international relations at the University of Oxford, published by the New Arab examines the possible impacts of the Israel-Gaza conflict on the Syrian crisis.
Ramani highlights that the conflict has already spilled over into Syria, with Israel conducting airstrikes on Damascus and Aleppo airports, and Iran-aligned militant groups attacking US forces in Syria with ties to Hezbollah and the Iranian Republican Guard Corps (IRGC).
The Assad regime has also intensified its bombardments against northwestern Syria, resembling pre-2020 levels of intensity. Despite thawing its relationship with Hamas in October 2022, Assad has refrained from large-scale escalations against Israel. However, Israel has continued to conduct airstrikes against Iran-aligned militias in Syria and engaged in cross-border clashes with the Syrian army. The US has also responded forcefully to attacks on its forces in Syria, potentially increasing pressure on Assad and his Iranian backers.
Ramani mentions the relationship between Assad and Hamas, noting that the outbreak of the Gaza war came one year after Syria’s rapprochement with Hamas. While there have been conciliatory gestures, deep-seated grievances, and internal resistance within Hamas have hindered full cooperation with the embattled Assad regime. Despite strident rhetoric, Iran and the regime have taken only nominal actions, confining its military responses against Israel to sporadic cross-border shelling and rocket attacks on the occupied Golan Heights.
Conversely, says Ramani, Israel’s airstrikes on Iranian military assets in Syria have intensified in recent weeks due to concerns about Iran using Syria’s Assad-controlled airports to transport military hardware to its military proxies throughout the region. The breakdown of Israel-Russia intelligence sharing over Syria has encouraged Israeli unilateralism. In response, the regime has strengthened its engagement with Iran, potentially leading to deeper military cooperation.
The US has faced escalating attacks by Iran-aligned militias in Syria, prompting decisive measures to counter these threats. Resulting in airstrikes on IRGC-linked facilities and increased deployment of aircraft carrier strike groups to the Middle East as a deterrence display. However, Iranian officials continue to view the US as an occupying power in Syria, accusing Washington of supporting Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Ramani concludes that while Syria has avoided a full-scale war with Israel, it cannot stay fully detached from the escalation of the Gaza war. As Assad balances maintaining stability at home and supporting Iran’s regional ambitions, Israeli and US strikes on Syria are likely to intensify in the coming weeks.