Following alleged Israeli air strikes near Damascus over the weekend, Syrian
authorities have considered allowing Palestinian armed groups to launch attacks
against Israel across the Golan Heights border, Syrian daily Al Watan reported
According to the report, the initiative was set to be
discussed in upcoming meetings between Syria and Palestinian faction leaders,
said Khalid Abd al-Majid, secretary-general of the Palestinian Popular Struggle
In light of recent developments, Syria has the “right and duty to
respond using all available means,” Majid was reported as saying.
faction is close to the Syrian regime, and the strength of the forces under his
control is subject to dispute.
Prof. Eyal Zisser – an expert on Syria at
Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center – told The Jerusalem Post he doubts the
report because there is no real presence of strong Palestinian forces that would
be able to carry out such an attack.
However, Zisser did not rule out the
possibility that Syrian President Bashar Assad might attack Israel in an
indirect manner, via a third party.
Regarding the alleged Israeli strikes
against Syrian targets, the Sunni-Arab media seems to be pleased by how weak
Syrian air defenses appeared in failing to defend the country from the
An article by Tariq Alhomayed in the Saudi-backed London-based
daily Asharq al-Awsat stated that the US has been exaggerating Syria’s
air-defense capabilities, and called upon the US to attack Syria
“The Syrian regime is like a dead body waiting to be buried –
this is what the Israeli air strikes demonstrated,” he said.
question, therefore, remains the same as it has been since the beginning of the
revolution,” Alhomayed wrote.
“What are the Americans and the
international community waiting for in order to intervene?”
Matthew RJ Brodsky –
director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center, a Washington- based think tank –
told the Post that it appears the strikes were carried out from Lebanese
“Nevertheless, Syrian or Russian SAM operators should have
still been able to pick up or track Israeli planes in Lebanese airspace,” he
“Syria is considered to have one of the better air-defense systems
in the Middle East. Yet while Syria’s SAM network appears very robust on paper,
it is more flimsy in practice – especially when faced with a major air incursion
launched by a modern opponent,” said Brodsky.
He added that the main
deficiency with the system is that it only has single- target engagement
capability and is vulnerable to planes flying at low altitudes.
also known to employ the more advanced SA-6 tactical system, which is mobile.
Brodsky notes that Syria has around five SA-5 sites, part of a longrange defense
system for protect the country along its western border into the
Asked by the Post if the feeling in Washington is that an
Israeli strike made US intervention more likely, he said that the strikes have
certainly increased the focus on the Syrian war.
“Coming as it did on the
heels of the revelation that chemical weapons were recently used in Syria, both
sides of the political aisle are really considering expanded US options in
Syria,” he added.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly
condemned on Tuesday the detention of four UN peacekeepers monitoring the
cease-fire line between Syria and the Golan Heights, and called for their
“The secretary-general calls on all parties to respect
UNDOF’s [UN Disengagement Observer Force] freedom of movement and safety and
security,” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.
The Post asked
UN spokesman Farhan Haq if the secretary-general is worried about the increasing
frequency of this activity in the Al Jamla region, to which Haq replied that
“further to the abduction of 21 peacekeepers on March 6, UNDOF reviewed its
security arrangements to implement its mandate and ensure the safety and
security of its personnel.”
He added that “different scenarios and
arrangements are being considered to continue operating in these difficult and
Michael Wilner, Reuters and Jerusalem Post
staff contributed to this report.