On July 2nd, Syria accused Israel of launching an “air aggression” from the Mediterranean, West of Lebanon’s second-largest city Tripoli, with numerous missiles aimed at an area to the south of Tartous. On July 4th, Russia’s foreign ministry called the strikes on Syria absolutely unacceptable and demanded the termination of the attacks.
The Syrian Ministry of Defense said that the strikes led to the injury of two civilians and some damage to civilian infrastructure near the town of Al-Hamidiyah. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded harshly, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stating: “We strongly condemn such irresponsible actions that violate the sovereignty of Syria and the basic norms of international law, and we demand their unconditional cessation.”
A facility that was struck in the attacks is used by Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah, a Syrian government ally. The town of Al-Hamidiyah is located South of Tartous, and is a stronghold of the Syrian government. Moreover, it is home to a naval port used by Russia, whose armed forces support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For several years, Israel has continued to attack what it describes as Iranian-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been established to back Syrian President Bahar al-Assad. Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against Syria. After the 2015 Russian intervention in the war, Israel set up a ‘deconfliction mechanism’ with Russia, which controls the Tartous naval facility, to prevent the two countries from inadvertently clashing during Israeli strikes.
Russia’s condemnation of the aggression on Syria is far from genuine and is clearly rooted in self-interest. The Russian regime’s criticism of the alleged Israeli-led attacks is a simplistic and superficial strategy aimed at salvaging the limited favorable reputation it has remaining on the international stage following its military operations in Ukraine. Demonstrating a severely narrow appreciation for upholding the sovereignty of nations and the basic norms of international law, Russia’s words are utterly empty. Much of its motivation to condemn this attack also comes from the fact that Israel has found itself increasingly opposed to Russia because of its explicit support for Ukraine. With much progress to be made on the front of understanding acceptable methods of conflict resolution as a third party, Russia’s actions are far from ideal and come across as hypocritical in light of its own violations of other countries’ right to sovereignty.
Unfortunately, Russia’s seemingly positive efforts to condemn violent actions within the conflict between Syria and Israel are futile. In order for their statements to be sustained, Russia itself must first uphold the sovereignty of nations and abide by the norms of international law. Unless they make considerable changes in their foreign and military policy, no substantial action towards adequate conflict resolution or peace is likely to come from Russia’s endeavors in the foreseeable future.
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