Warning Syria

Following reported Israeli attacks, forces seem to be concentrating to threaten relative quiet that has characterized Syrian border.

Golan border Syria truck 370 (photo credit:  REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Golan border Syria truck 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, threats to Israeli security increase – as do the chances for a military conflagration on the Syrian border.
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 state.
Nakba Day is usually commemorated on May 15, one day after the date on the Gregorian calendar on which Israel declared its independence 65 years ago.
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 Heights.
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 shore-to-sea missiles.
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 Times 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.”
While in Russia, Netanyahu warned Putin that Moscow’s sale of sophisticated missile defense systems to the Assad regime could push the Middle East into war.
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 the systems.
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.
Israel has 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.