As the old Chinese says: “May you live in interesting times.” As the Syrian civil war is spilling into Israel, things are getting very “interesting.” For the past two days, Israel had to fire missiles to protect itself, not from Iran drones as had happened before, but from Syrian government forces.
On Monday morning, Israel time, two David’s Sling air/missile-defense missiles were launched from northern Israel toward Russian-made SS-21 “Tochka” (Scarab) short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) used by the Syrian Army against ISIS fighters in Daraa Province.
The David’s Sling interceptors did not hit the SS-21 projectiles. However, the SS-21s reportedly landed in Syria, short of Israeli territory. The closest one came within a kilometer of the border.
One of the David’s Sling missiles was command-detonated by the IDF when it was clear there would not be an intercept. According to Times of Israel, the fate of the other interceptor has not yet been reported.
The Israeli missile commander made the decision to attempt the intercept based on the SS-21 trajectories, and the possibility that one or both could land in Israel. Some reports have indicated that the initial projection showed the SS-21 might go as far as the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret).
The map below depicts where the fighting was in the ISIS pocket in Daraa Province on Monday 23 July. Presumably, the SS-21s were launched to achieve impact somewhere in the ISIS-side rear of the line of confrontation (which is mainly along the border of the ISIS pocket, give or take a few local penetrations by Syrian army forces).
The IDF decision to attempt intercept might or might not have been an “overabundance” of caution. We should definitely not presume to pass judgment on that. As regards where the SS-21s were going, the distance of the probable intended impact area from the Sea of Galilee is between 25 and 30 kilometers (15-18 statute miles). The circular error probable, or likely miss distance, of the SS-21 Scarab B in the Syrian arsenal is nominally about 95 meters; i.e., a tenth of a kilometer.