North­ern ex­po­sure

Jerusalem Post - - FRONTLINES -

On Wednes­day af­ter­noon, sirens sounded in a dozen com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern Is­rael. A Syr­ian drone had en­tered Is­raeli airspace, fly­ing for 10 km. over the Golan Heights be­fore be­ing shot down by a Pa­triot mis­sile. Two at­tack he­li­copters and four fighter jets were scram­bled to counter the threat.

Am­bas­sador to the UN Danny Danon warned the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of the desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place in Syria. “Is­rael holds the Syr­ian govern­ment ac­count­able for ev­ery at­tack orig­i­nat­ing from its ter­ri­tory. We will not tol­er­ate breaches of the 1974 Sep­a­ra­tion of Forces Agree­ment and we will con­tinue to de­fend our ci­ti­zens and our ter­ri­tory,” Danon said.

The drone in­fil­tra­tion comes amid height­ened ten­sions due to a Syr­ian regime of­fen­sive in the coun­try’s south that was launched last month. Since mid-June, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Syr­i­ans have fled fight­ing and the Syr­ian rebels have suf­fered nu­mer­ous set­backs.

The sit­u­a­tion on the Golan is com­bustible. Thou­sands of Syr­i­ans dis­placed by the fight­ing have fled to the bor­der, clus­ter­ing in be­tween the 1974 cease-fire lines called Al­pha and Bravo. They hud­dle near the bor­der fence and some hold up signs ask­ing for pro­tec­tion. Since the of­fen­sive be­gan the Syr­i­ans have won­dered why the world has aban­doned them to As­sad’s bru­tal­ity. They have been ask­ing that for seven years and it ap­pears much of the world has fa­tigue for the suf­fer­ing of the peo­ple in Syria. To Is­rael’s credit Op­er­a­tion Good Neigh­bor has been a shin­ing light unto the na­tions, show­cas­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and also med­i­cal aid that has helped thou­sands of Syr­i­ans.

The larger threat now, is to Is­rael’s se­cu­rity and the need for Jerusalem not to al­low in­ci­dents like the drone to be­come the “new nor­mal” in the North, sim­i­lar to the re­al­ity Ha­mas has cre­ated in the South. For years dur­ing the Syr­ian con­flict the main threat was spillover from fight­ing on the other side. This took the form of mor­tars that some­times fell in­side the Golan. Is­rael re­tal­i­ated against the Syr­ian regime, send­ing a mes­sage to keep the civil war on the other side of the line. This usu­ally worked.

But as the regime has grown in power over the last year it has be­come more ar­ro­gant. The Ira­nian back­ers of Damascus have used the chaos of the Syr­ian con­flict to ex­tend their oc­to­pus-like ten­ta­cles through­out Syria.

First, this in­volved Hezbol­lah and Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps op­er­a­tives and ad­vi­sors. Then came the mer­ce­nar­ies, re­cruited from poor Shi’ite fam­i­lies in Afghanistan and else­where, sent to die as cannon fod­der so Bashar As­sad and his fam­ily could con­tinue their rule. Then came the more so­phis­ti­cated mili­tias, in­clud­ing Shi’ite mili­tias from Iraq like Kataib Hezbol­lah. This was part of Iran’s plan to cre­ate a cor­ri­dor to the sea that in­volves in­flu­ence, prox­ies and weapons trans­fers. Is­rael has struck these threats more than 100 times in five years.

In the last six months, the threats have grown. An Ira­nian drone flew into Is­rael near Beit Shean in Fe­bru­ary. A salvo of twenty rock­ets was fired at the Golan in May.

Each ac­tion has led to a re­ac­tion by Is­rael, usu­ally pu­n­ish­ing Iran and the Syr­ian regime. But the at­tacks have not de­terred the regime or Tehran. Tehran knows that it can con­tinue to threaten Is­rael in a va­ri­ety of ways. Is­rael has sought to warn Damascus via Moscow to stop the Ira­nian threat. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu re­peat­edly stressed that Iran must leave Syria. As­sad re­sponds that there are no Ira­nian forces in Syria. Be­neath the war of words the airstrikes and Ira­nian pres­ence con­tinue.

In re­tal­i­a­tion for the drone in­cur­sion, the IDF struck three tar­gets in Syria. De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man has warned that Syria must re­frain from any ac­tions that vi­o­late the bor­der area. “I made it clear here, both to the com­man­ders and to the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the UN Disen­gage­ment Ob­server Force that any Syr­ian en­ter­ing into the buf­fer zone, ev­ery Syr­ian sol­dier in the buf­fer zone, would en­dan­ger his soul.”

A new re­port at the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies ar­gues that “Is­rael now seeks to en­sure this does not de­velop into a pat­tern, where Iran is al­lowed to test Is­rael and sim­ply ab­sorb lim­ited ret­ri­bu­tion.”

On the heels of Ne­tanyahu’s trip to Moscow and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin next week, the mes­sage must be clear: Iran must leave Syria.

The regime and Moscow must take this se­ri­ously and not con­tinue the rhetor­i­cal cha­rade of claim­ing there are no Ira­nian forces in Syria or that they are not “for­eign” or that they con­sist merely of mili­tias or ad­vi­sors. The Golan bor­der must not be­come an­other Gaza, it must re­main quiet or As­sad will pay the price for al­low­ing threats to fes­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel

© PressReader. All rights reserved.