Israel is occupying the Golan Heights, Shebaa Farms and the Palestinian territories. In addition, the non-international armed conflicts in Syria have spilled over into the Golan Heights, leading to a series of short-lived international armed conflicts.
Israel is involved as the occupying power in three occupations.
- First, Israel is occupying the Golan Heights, which are part of Syria.
- Second, Israel is occupying the Shebaa Farms, which are part of Lebanon.
- Finally, Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories, which are part of Palestine.
The non-international armed conflicts in Syria have repeatedly spilled over into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Syrian and Israeli armed forces have repeatedly violated the 1974 Disengagement of Armed Forces Agreement and fighting between Syrian armed forces and non-state armed groups in the area of separation remains common. See for example Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Disengagement Force for the Period from 2 March to 16 May 2017, UN doc S/2017/486, 8 June 2017; Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Disengagement Force for the Period from 1 March to 20 May 2016, UN doc S/2016/520, 8 June 2016. In August 2014, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, abducted 45 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights and released them unharmed on September 11. See Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Disengagement Force for the Period from 4 September to 19 November 2014, UN doc S/2014/859, 28 November 2014, §4. In response to cross-border attacks from non-state armed groups, but also to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, Israel has repeatedly carried out missile and airstrikes inside Syrian territory, leading to a series of distinct short-lived international armed conflicts. See A. Bellal (ed), The War Report: Armed Conflict in 2014, Oxford University Press 2014, p 57 ff. Examples include the downing of a Syrian warplane that had entered the airspace of the Golan Heights in September 2014, see ‘Israel Shoots Down Syrian Warplane’, CBS/Associated Press, 23 September 2014; the bombing of Syrian army positions in March 2014, December 2014, and September 2015, see L. Smith-Spark and M. Schwartz, ‘Israel Retaliates in Syria After Roadside Bomb Attack Against Israeli Troops’, CNN, 19 March 2014; P. Beaumont, ‘Israeli Jets Bomb Syria, Says Damascus’, The Guardian, 7 December 2014; ‘Israel Strikes Syria After Rockets Land in Golan’, Al Jazeera, 28 September 2015; and a series of bombings believed to aim to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, for example in March 2013 and in November 2016, see ‘Israel Bombs Hezbollah-bound Missiles in Syria: Official’, Reuters, 4 May 2013; ‘Israeli Airstrikes Hit Damascus Outskirts, Syrian Reports Says’, The Guardian/Associated Press, 30 November 2016; P. Beaumont, 'Israel Reported to Have Bombed Syrian Chemical Weapons Facility', The Guardian, 7 September 2017. For example, in 2017, Israel reportedly carried out airstrikes in Syria in March, April, September and November. 'Israel Carries Out Air Strikes Inside Syria', Al Jazeera, 18 March 2017; J. Ensor, 'Damascus Airport Rocked by Huge Explosion After Suspected Israeli Air Strike on Hizbollah', The Telegraph, 27 April 2017; B. McKernan, 'Israeli Air Force Jets Kill Two in Rare Targeting of Syrian Chemical Facility', The Independent, 7 September 2017; P. Beaumont, 'Israeli Jets Bombed Site Close to Damascus Airport, Reports Say', The Guardian, 22 September 2017; 'Syria War: Israeli Jets "Strike Factory Near Homs"', BBC, 2 November 2017.
On 11 February 2018, Israel launched its largest scale aerial attacks inside Syria so far. After claiming to have intercepted an Iranian drone crossing the Syrian-Israeli border, Israeli fighter planes attacked a Syrian military base. During the attack, an Israeli fighter plane was shut down by Syrian air defence. In response, Israel launched attacks targeting Syrian air defences. A. Taylor, 'Israel Has Taken Its Biggest Step Into the Syrian War Yet. What Does that Mean?', The Washington Post, 10 February 2018; L. Sly and L. Morris, 'Syria's War Mutates Into a Regional Conflict, Risking a Wider Conflagration', The Washington Post, 12 February 2012; A. Carey, L. Smith-Spart and N. Chavez, 'Israeli PM: Airstrikes Dealt "Severe Blows" to Iran, Syria', CNN, 11 February 2018: 'Damascus Warns Israel of "More Surprises" in Syria', Reuters, 13 February 2018; R. Bergman, 'The Middle East's Coming War', The New York Times, 12 February 2018. This use of force by Israel against Syria amounts to a short-lived international armed conflict. The threshold for an international armed conflict is very low. Whenever there is a resort to hostile armed force between two states, there is an international armed conflict. For further information, see 'international armed conflict - a low threshold' in our classification section.
In recent years, Wilayat Sinai, an organized armed group which operates in Egypt, has sporadically launched attacks against Israel with rockets. See, for instance, A. Ahronheim, ‘Rocket Attacks on Israel Fuel Fears of ISIS Pivot from Syria to Egypt’, The Jerusalem Post, 16 October 2017. Worried by the developments in the Sinai Peninsula and the alliance between Wilayat Sinai and the Islamic State group, Israel has been conducting a covert air campaign in the region with the consent of the Egyptian government. Notably, since 2016 Israel has carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Egypt, using unmarked drones, helicopters and jets.D. D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K.’, The New York Times, 3 February 2018.