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Israeli Military’s 2020 Summary: Dozens of Airstrikes in Syria, Relative Quiet on the Palestinian Front

The Israel Defense Forces published its end of year report on Thursday, summarizing its operations and providing a snapshot of its status as it enters 2021.

Israel’s military witnessed a noticeable decline in hostile activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip over the past year, likely thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic stifling the Palestinian population. Yet in the northern arenas of Syria and Lebanon, it was business as usual for the IDF’s ground, naval and air forces.

There were fewer attempted stabbings, fewer rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown, and soldiers and settlers reported fewer shooting incidents in the West Bank, territory conquered by Israel in the 1967 war. The military also conducted fewer raids, confiscated less terror-funding money and arrested fewer Palestinians in the past year, according to the report.

On the southern border, Gazans fired 176 missiles at Israeli towns and villages, just 10% of the number in 2019. The low total was a result of no rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules the coastal enclave and which is deemed a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, among others.

Israel’s Iron Dome mobile air defense system managed to intercept 93% of all rockets heading for populated areas.

It was a much busier year at the Lebanese and Syrian borders, where Israeli soldiers were tasked with thwarting repeated infiltration attempts by Hizbullah troops.

The Lebanon-based, Iran-backed organization, also designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US and the EU, launched 10 known operations trying to enter Israeli territory, and placed explosive devices along patrol routes on the Israeli side of the Lebanese and Syrian borders on four occasions, according to the IDF’s report.

In a rare occurrence, the end of year summary also noted that the Israel Air Force conducted 50 airstrikes on the Syrian front. In 2020, the IAF added four F-35 fifth-generation stealth combat aircraft to its arsenal, bringing the total to 24.

As a matter of policy, Jerusalem almost never comments on reports that it has attacked beyond its borders, though it is believed the IDF has executed hundreds of aerial assaults against Iranian targets in Syria in recent years.

On Wednesday, an air raid attributed to Israel on a weapons and rocket warehouse rocked the Damascus countryside, reportedly killing a Hizbullah operative, in the second such strike in less than a week.

The IDF report offered little else as far as new and valuable information is concerned, with classified figures pertaining to its naval operations and special ops units remaining under wraps.

Last week, an Israeli submarine was observed crossing the Suez Canal, on its way to the Red Sea and possibly the Persian Gulf. The IDF remained mum on the matter.

That obviously doesn’t mean Israel has taken its foot off the pedal with regards to its security. Just from what has been revealed, we know [the IDF] has operated in various locations

“It’s been a relatively quiet year, in term of the usual, better-known arenas,” Prof. Eytan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies told The Media Line.

“That obviously doesn’t mean Israel has taken its foot off the pedal with regards to its security. Just from what has been revealed, we know [the IDF] has operated in various locations,” Gilboa said.

The wide-ranging summary also contains more esoteric numbers. Vegan soldiers consumed more than 50 tons of tofu and 38 tons of soy flakes in 2020, with the army also distributing nearly 2,000 vegan boots and 2,500 vegan barrettes.

Israeli troops made 70,000 blood donations over the past year.

As for the new year, Gilboa believes there is a good chance things will significantly change.

“With the expanding agreements with Gulf nations, including potential military cooperation, and the changing administrations in Washington, anything is possible. 2021 won’t be a rerun of 2020,” he said.