Syria and Israel

Muhammad’s tragedy is compounded by the fact that he was seemingly safe, far from Syrian bloodletting.

 14-year-old Muhammad Karaka killed by a missile fired from Syria on June 22, 2014 (photo credit: BOKRA.NET)
14-year-old Muhammad Karaka killed by a missile fired from Syria on June 22, 2014
(photo credit: BOKRA.NET)
Sadly, it’s safe to assume that the death of a 14-year-old named Muhammad would have aroused a hue and cry around the world, generated condemnation by the UN, and sparked disturbances in the Arab/Muslim sphere, had it been possible to blame the death on Israel. But the Israeli teenager Muhammad Karaka of the Galilee village of Arrabe is one of many thousands of youngsters whose life was snuffed out by the cruel Syrian conflict. Therefore, there no hue and cry was heard when he was slain last Sunday.
Foreign news outlets tersely and indifferently referred to an “Israeli killed on the occupied Golan Heights” if they mentioned it at all. Israel’s Arab sector expressed no rage.
Muhammad’s tragedy is compounded by the fact that he was seemingly safe, far from Syrian bloodletting.
He went to the Golan with his father, who was driving a water tanker near the border. It should have been a pleasant outing on his first day of summer vacation. But the calm was shattered by an anti-tank missile from Syria, which scored a direct hit on his father’s truck. Muhammad, sitting inside, was beyond help.
The learned conclusion of Israel’s security establishment is that the missile was not fired at the Israeli side of the Golan unintentionally. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon holds the Damascus command directly answerable for the cross-border attack. This reading of the situation prompted the IAF to strike at nine Syrian army targets.
In a statement, Ya’alon emphasized that the incident is not regarded as another, negligible trickle of violence from Syria into Israel: “We see the regime of Bashar Assad and the Syrian military as responsible for what occurs in the territory under their control, and we will respond aggressively and harshly against any provocation and violation of our sovereignty.”
Ya’alon warned all combatants in the Syrian civil war against the temptation to freely vent hostility on the IDF or Israeli civilians. He specifically mentioned forces loyal to Assad, the broad gamut of Syrian opposition elements, and the bewildering hodgepodge of Jihadist/terrorist fighters vying in the country. A heavy price, Ya’alon stressed, awaits anyone in Syria trying to disrupt life in Israel.
The truth is that none of this should surprise us in the least. The writing was not just on the wall; it was daubed boldly in florescent colors. If anything unites the most extreme fanatics on both sides of the Syrian divide, it is visceral hatred for Israel. This is what Shiite Hezbollah warriors on the Assad side have in common with their al-Qaida foes and ISIS Sunni arch-zealots.
With Israelis in their sights daily, it is unrealistic to expect these trigger-happy belligerents to forgo the satisfaction of deliberately diverting some of their firepower against the most reviled enemy of all.
If anything destabilizes this region, it certainly is not publishing construction tenders for Jewish homes in Israel’s capital; it is the terrorist free-for-all that has been allowed to entrench itself nearby.
Signs of mounting unrest were already evident on the Golan for the past couple of years. We were just uncommonly lucky they did not claim lives until this week. It was only a matter of time before seemingly errant projectiles that used to hit us sporadically escalated into carefully aimed sniper fire.
Three months ago IDF paratroopers were booby- trapped by a roadside device in the Golan’s northern sector. That was already too close for comfort to the Gaza model, where the border area is targeted via explosives, mortars, ambushes, and sniper fire.
Not that our highest defense echelon fails to notice any of this. One sign of shifting responses on the Golan is the construction, already under way, of a security fence, much like the one separating the Negev from anarchic Sinai.
That said, an exhaustive reconsideration is essential.
Ingrained concepts that constituted Israel’s strategic premise for decades no longer seem valid. Syria’s well-controlled, strenuously disciplined border zone is gone. The global jihad is in full fury next door.
Much as we prefer it were different, the Middle East’s mayhem is inexorably moving our way.