The security repercussions from Sunday’s deadly, cross-border missile attack from Syria will likely continue to reverberate in the coming hours and days.
Should the IDF reach the conclusion that combatants from the pro-Assad camp – either the Syrian army itself, Hezbollah or someone acting on their behalf – are responsible for the firing of an anti-tank missile at an Israeli truck, it is difficult to imagine Israel sitting on the sidelines and failing to act to punish the aggressors and restore its deterrence.
An initial investigation into the attack found that the barrier separating Israel from Syria along the Golan Heights prevented even more casualties, as it managed to absorb a large chunk of the blast from the missile strike.
That’s no comfort to the bereaved family from the village of Arrabe in the Galilee, and it will change nothing in Israel’s response to the incident.
The IDF Northern Command is permitted to launch limited, pinpoint responses to border attacks such as this, which they did on Sunday in the form of tank fire on positions held by the Assad military.
But the unprovoked attack is deeply disturbing to senior IDF command, and a failure to launch a more forceful Israeli reply will probably be seen by those responsible as a green light to continue, an outcome the defense establishment will seek to avoid.
Israel has already proven that it would not hesitate to strike Syrian military targets in response to cross-border fire, as it did in March, when it retaliated to a border bombing of an IDF patrol that injured four soldiers traveling on the Golan Heights.
During those air strikes in March, Syrian army command posts, artillery batteries and a training base on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights were hit.
Speaking after Israel’s retaliation, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the targets struck were chosen because they “allowed and assisted yesterday’s terror attack. We will not tolerate any infringement of our sovereignty or harm to our soldiers and civilians. We will respond resolutely and powerfully to anyone who acts against us, at any time and place, as we’ve done tonight.”
There is little reason to doubt whether Israel will follow the same model for action now, and in doing so, deliver a firm message to the attackers that if they escalate the situation further, they will regret their decision.