As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, threats to Israeli security
increase – as do the chances for a military conflagration on the Syrian
Just two weeks ago, the IAF reportedly hit at least three targets
in the country: An arms depot, a chemical weapons site and a weapons convoy in
Damascus believed to be in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. The preemptive
strikes aimed at preventing Iran from transferring chemical weapons and
Fatah-110 surface-to-surface missiles – considered by Israel “game-changing” due
to their accuracy and range – to Hezbollah.
In the wake of those
purported Israeli attacks, various forces seem to be coming together to threaten
the relative quiet that has characterized the Syrian border. On Wednesday, for
the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising two years ago, Mount
Hermon was hit.
A previously unknown organization calling itself the
Abdul Qader Husseini Battalions of the Free Palestine Movement took
responsibility for firing two mortar shells at Mount Hermon. Ostensibly, the
attack was connected to the “Nakba” (“catastrophe”), which is the name
Palestinians use to describe the disastrous consequences of their decision to
launch an unsuccessful war to prevent the creation of a Jewish
Nakba Day is usually commemorated on May 15, one day after the
date on the Gregorian calendar on which Israel declared its independence 65
The instigator of the Golan mortar fire, however, could very
well be the Assad regime. Just last week the Syrian daily Al-Watan reported that
Syrian authorities were considering allowing Palestinian armed groups to launch
attacks against Israel across the Golan border. And according to a report this
week in the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Iran’s mullahs even persuaded Bashar
Assad to allow Hezbollah to open a front against Israel from the Golan
Meanwhile, Russia continues to ship weapons to Syria and has
given no signs that it will stop. At the end of a three-hour meeting with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said at a press
conference that Israel and Russia would continue to maintain contact regarding
the Syrian situation.
Neither leader, however, made any public reference
to the Russian intention to sell state-of-the-art S-300 antiaircraft missiles to
Syria. With a range of up to 200 km.
and the capability to track down and
strike multiple targets simultaneously, Syrian acquisition of the S-300’s would
mean a quantum leap in its air defense capabilities.
Syria has already
obtained from Russia advanced SA- 17 antiaircraft weapons and Yakhont
In the face of these worrying developments, Israel
has issued a number of warnings in recent days aimed at deterring all relevant
actors from making the stupid mistake of escalating an already volatile
situation. This week an unidentified Israel official contacted The New York
and made the following statement: “If Syrian President Bashar Assad reacts
by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he
will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”
Russia, Netanyahu warned Putin that Moscow’s sale of sophisticated missile
defense systems to the Assad regime could push the Middle East into
Netanyahu told Putin that the S-300 missiles had no relevance to
Assad’s civil-war battles against rebel groups, and urged Moscow not to deliver
According to the Times
, Israel has also sent messages to
Assad through back channels – probably Russia – saying the purported Israeli
attacks launched two weeks ago against targets in Syria were not directed
against the Assad government. Rather, these attacks were aimed at stopping
“game-changing” weaponry from reaching Hezbollah. Israel added, however, that it
would target Assad if he chose to retaliate against Israel.
avoided intervening – or even taking a public stand – on Syria’s internal
affairs. Israel’s political and military leaders will not, however, tolerate
attacks on its territory or direct strategic threats such as the transfer of
game-changing weaponry to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization bent on Israel’s
destruction. Syria, Hezbollah, various Palestinians factions situated near the
Golan Heights – and Russia – should heed Israeli warnings.
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