Late on January 22, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) repelled a major attack by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

According to the Russian military, about 150-200 militants supported by 15-20 vehicles equipped with machine guns attacked SAA positions in the areas of Abu al-Duhur and Abu Sharja. They also employed at least one suicide vehicle borne explosive device. The militants overran the first line of defense and penetrated about 1.5-2 km deep into the SAA-controlled area.

Then, the military deployed reinforcements and with support of artillery units SAA troops repelled the advance and forced militants to withdraw from the recently captured positions.

According to pro-SAA sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham members suffered significant casualties.

12 service members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were killed in the January 20th Israeli airstrikes on Damascus’s International Airport, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on January 22. The SOHR claimed that the total death toll is 21 people: 6 Syrian Army troops, 12 IRGC service members and 3 other non-Syrian nationals.

On January 22, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations warned that if the UN Security Council did not put a stop to Israeli strikes on his country, Syria would retaliate on its own.

“Syria would practice its legitimate right of self-defense and respond to the Israeli aggression on Damascus International Airport in the same way on Tel Aviv airport,” Bashar Jaafari said.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that the strikes were aimed at Iranian targets in the country. According  to the very same version, IDF aircraft attacked Syrian military positions because they were responding ‘violently’ to Israeli strikes on Iranian forces. It should be noted that the SOHR claims contradict with the data provided by the Russian Defense Ministry. It said that 4 Syrian service members were killed in the attack.

The Russia-delivered S-300 system was not employed by the Syrian military during the encounter. According to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, the reason is that Syrian S-300 crews are still not ready to operate the S-300 air defense system themselves. According to the report, the S-300 crews have not passed firing exams yet. The newspaper speculated that the crews would not be ready earlier than March 2019. Then, one battalion of the S-300 air defense system will reportedly be deployed in the T4 airbase area.

Citing its own sources, Kommersant stated that Russia is not going to change its current attitude towards Israeli strikes on Syria as long as Russian personnel are not near the targets being hit.

Syria To “Strike Tel Aviv Airport” Unless UN Does Something About Israeli Aggression

Syria has threatened to strike Israel’s Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv unless the UN Security Council ends years of IDF incursions into Syrian airspace, according to Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari.

“Isn’t time now for the UN Security Council to stop the Israeli repeated aggressions on the Syrian Arab Republic territories?” asked al-Jaafari. “Or is it required to draw the attention of the war-makers in this Council by exercising our legitimate right to defend ourself and respond to the Israeli aggression on Damascus International Civil Airport in the same way on Tel Aviv Airport?

Israeli forces conducted several strikes in recent days on alleged Iranian facilities within Syria, including a rare daylight raid on Syria’s international airport south of Damascus, which the Assad government responded ti with a surface-to-surface missile, according to the Times of Israel.

Israel’s Sunday night attack involved dozens of strikes reportedly from F-16 jets flying over Lebanon targeting locations in and around southern Damascus. Syria’s Pantsir and Buk air defense missile systems reportedly shot down an unknown number of inbound Israeli rockets according to early unconfirmed video.

In total, 21 people were killed in the exchange, including at least 12 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to i24 Newsciting watchdog reports.

Israeli air raids in Syria have repeatedly endangered airline flights operating over the region – endangering two civilian aircraft on Christmas day while engaging Syrian targets, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, which added that the IDF F-16s approached as civilian jets were landing at Damascus and Beirut airports.

Moscow chimed in on Wednesday as well, calling for Israel to halt what Moscow described as arbitrary air strikes on Syria.

“The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state, in this case, we are talking about Syria, should be ruled out,” said Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, responding to a question from Russian news agency TASS about the recent Israeli strikes.

“We should never allow Syria, which has suffered years of armed conflict, to be turned into an arena where geopolitical scores are settled,” she added.

In September, 15 Russian servicemen were killed after Israeli jets used a Russian II-20 recon plane as cover to place it in the path of a Syrian air defense missile.

Syria urged the UN Security Council to put an end to Israeli incursions, as al-Jaafari accused the United States, Britain and France – which hold permanent memberships on the UN body, of condoning Israeli aggression – ignoring their responsibility to “maintain international peace and security in accordance with international law.”

The restoration sovereignty of the occupied Syrian Golan is a permanent right of Syria that [is] not subject to negotiations,” added al-Jaafari.

Israel began occupying the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War – refraining from extending sovereignty over the region for more than a decade until the Jewish state annexed the area in 1981. Syria has repeatedly argued that the Golan heights is their territory, and had demanded it back.

Israel disagrees.

“Israel will remain forever on the Golan Heights, and the Golan Heights will forever remain in our hands,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November.