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The historic enmity between Israel and Iran seems these days at its most critical point: the armed forces of both countries have even exchanged artillery fire in Syria.
Both countries are heading for an open confrontation that could turn into an open war that would spread through Syria and Lebanon.
And is that Israel confirmed on Thursday that launched an attack on almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syrian territory, while the Syrian army reported that the “aggression” resulted in the death of three people.
Tel Aviv justified the attack on the grounds that it carried out the attack in retaliation for what it claims was the launching of 20 missiles by Iranian forces in Syria.
Tehran did not immediately speak on the signal, but if confirmed, it would be the first time that Iran directly attacks Israel , a country it has never recognized.
“Since 1979 (the year in which the Islamic Revolution triumphed) Iran’s first objective has been to fight against Israel, ” says Ebrahim Khalili, editor of the Persian Service of the BBC.
Israel sees Iran as a country that sponsors terrorism and has described its influence in the Middle East as “the biggest threat” on the planet.
BBC Mundo summarizes in three points the context in which the growing tension between Iran and Israel occurs.
1. The Golan Heights
The attack of which Israel accused Iran occurred on Wednesday and occurred against several of its positions in the Golan Heights, a region located on the border between Syria and Israel.
The 20 missiles did not cause considerable damage because some were intercepted by their missile shield and others because they did not reach their objective.
“The Iranian aggression shows the intentions of the strengthening of the forces of the Tehran regime in Syria and the threat it poses to Israel and to regional stability,” the Israeli army said in a statement.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that while his country “had no interest in escalation,” he would “be prepared for any situation.”
“We are facing a new reality in which Iran is attacking Israel directly and trying to damage the sovereignty and territories of Israel,” he added.
The Syrian army declared that it had “frustrated a new act of Israeli aggression” and that its air defenses “destroyed a large part” of the missiles.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization based in the United Kingdom that monitors the war in Syria, confirmed that “dozens of rockets” were fired from the province of Quneitra and south-west of Damascus to the occupied territories in the Golan. But he did not identify the perpetrators of the attack.
The Golan Heights is an emblematic region in the Middle East, which, although small, is strategically important .
Four countries surround it: Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Israel occupied much of that plateau in the Six Day War of 1967 and, in 1981, it was annexed to a measure that was not recognized by the international community.
That has been one of the main obstacles to peace between Israel and Syria, whose historical ally has been Iran . Damascus has said that the total return of that territory is an essential part of any peace agreement.
The Golan Heights give Israel an excellent point of observation to monitor movements in Syria. In addition, they are a key source of water for Israelis and have a fertile land, perfect for growing vineyards and raising livestock.
2. The Syrian war confronts Iran and Israel
The Israeli army had been anticipating an attack by the Iranian forces.
And, in recent months, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of launching attacks on key positions in Syria .
One of them was perpetrated in April at an air base. Seven Iranian soldiers died.
Since the war in Syria began in 2011, Israel has been alarmed by the deployment of Iranian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, which claims to fight against terrorist groups.
It is believed that Tehran has spent billions of dollars a year to strengthen Syrian government forces, offering military advisers, weapons, credit and oil.
“The Syrian Civil War has provided a new arena of conflict with Israel and Iran, as both seek to dissuade the other from an attack on a large scale , ” said the American site geopolitical analysis and international security Stratfor.
Jonathan Marcus, an expert on defense issues of the BBC, agrees that neither Israel nor Iran seem to want, at this stage, to reach a total war.
In fact, after the attack, the Ministry of Defense of Israel said that his country “is not interested in escalation.”
“However, their strategic rivalry is clear: Tehran is looking to establish itself as a military actor in Syria to open another potential front against Israel and Israel is equally determined to prevent it,” Marcus says.
Syria is the main weapons transit point that Tehran sends to the Shiite Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, which has also sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian forces.
Hezbollah, on the other hand, is seen by Israel as a terrorist group.
In fact, two of Israel’s main enemies in the region are Iran and Hezbollah , which the Israeli army has attacked on Syrian territory.
3. The US decision to end the nuclear agreement with Iran
The Israeli attack comes two days after US President Donald Trump decided to end his country’s participation in the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.
Officially called the Joint and Complete Action Plan (JCPOA), the agreement was negotiated by Iran with the five permanent members of the UN SecurityCouncil and Germany (P5 + 1), and was completed in July. 2015
Its objective was to ensure that Iran’s nuclear energy program was totally peaceful and began to be applied in January 2016.
Considered by former president Barack Obama as one of his main achievements in foreign policy, Trump never hid his opposition to what he called “the worst agreement in history.”
Netanyahu was key in finishing to convince to Trump to retire to its country.
Anthony Zurcher, a BBC correspondent in Washington, said that the US leader’s position was radicalized with his full support for the Israeli prime minister and the Israeli hardliner in the peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Israel has always seen the Iranian nuclear program as a threat and after the announcement of the White House, put its troops on “maximum alert”.
On Tuesday, the BBC’s security and defense correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, argued that some feared that, with that decision, Trump could have put much closer the prospect of a new and catastrophic war in the Middle East.
In fact, military analysts warned that the decision of the White House could start a stage of regional violence.
The reaction of Iran was immediate.
Rohani said he had ordered the atomic authorities of his country to prepare to begin enriching uranium at industrial levels, if talks with the other members (Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) to maintain the treaty fail.