AN IAF F-15 takes off from the Uvda Air Force Base in southern Israel..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three years ago, an IDF officer stood on the Golan Heights at the Bustar military outpost on the border with Syria and explained to The Jerusalem Post how the military had recently formulated new rules to deter combatants in the civil war raging next door from firing on Israel.
Those who fire on Israel can expect a devastating reply in the form of return fire, which often took the form of Tamuz guided-missile strikes, the officer said.
“We don’t always know if we’re fired on intentionally or not. It doesn’t interest us. If someone fires on us, it’s not okay,” he said, speaking in October 2013.
Now, in September 2016, the war in Syria continues to rage and the death toll has surpassed half a million, while the conflict has produced the largest refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II. The US and Russia have announced a plan to significantly cut back the fighting, and Israel is closely monitoring developments – as uncertain as the rest of the region where things will lead.
Now, as in 2013, Israel has stayed out of the fight, except to provide humanitarian and medical assistance to thousands of south Syria residents.
However, Israel now uses its air force, not just surface-to-surface missiles, to punish those who fire into its territory. Last week, the Israel Air Force struck Assad regime artillery guns on no fewer than three occasions, in response to stray mortar shells fired from Syria that exploded on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
Back in 2013, the officer said “the IDF works in a very calculated, restrained way. We hit the sources of fire to send a very strong message.
But we’re also restrained in many instances because we don’t want to ignite a new front.”
Today, the IDF still works in a very calculated way, but it is less restrained in its responses to cross-border fire from Syria.
A new policy appears to have taken shape in which Israel cracks down harder on the Assad regime when it, or its allied forces, accidentally fire shells into Israel, including the one that struck 15 kilometers inside Israeli territory last week.
No one in the IDF has suggested these recent instances of cross-border fire are intentional; the Assad regime, and its allies, Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias, have nothing to gain by opening up a new front with Israel now, when they are still neck deep in battles with Sunni rebel organizations.
But Israel wants the Assad regime to be more careful.
The last time Iran and Hezbollah attempted to exploit their presence on the Syrian Golan to set up a terrorist base against Israel they paid a heavy price, losing several senior operatives from the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah in a reported Israeli strike, and neither has tried its luck against Israel from Syria since.
That, however, could change.
Israel will continue to closely monitor developments, and prepare for all possibilities while seeking to keep itself out of the bloodletting.
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