While the world is focusing on the crisis in Egypt, the offensive against Bashar Assad's regime and his supporters in Lebanon continues. on Tuesday, while the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood were bracing for another confrontation, explosions rocked the center of Damascus and a car bomb went off in the Shi'ite quarter of Beirut.
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These events served as a reminder that Syria continues to bleed and the repercussions of the horrendous civil war are still being felt next door, even when the international media is preoccupied with Egypt.
It seems Israel isn't directly connected to these events. Al-Arabiya reported a series of explosions in Damascus overnight Monday into Tuesday. In the morning, dozens of Lebanese were wounded by the car bomb in the Dahiya neighborhood near a civilian center associated with Hezbollah - the heart of the Shi'ite stronghold in south Beirut.
The motive for the Damascus attacks are not yet clear. As for Beirut, Israel usually doesn't resort to mass terror - which usually is aimed at causing fear.
Even so, the explosion in the center of Dahiya is a direct challenge to Hezbollah, following the rocket fire at the neighborhood more than a month ago, and several incidents of rocket fire on Shi'ite villages in the Beqaa Valley.
One can assume that Sunni organizations are behind the attacks on Hezbollah, possibly Lebanese organizations that might have been assisted by Sunni opposition groups in Syria. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was probably right last week when he said that because of the Syrian civil war, the fringes of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's cape were on fire. The more Hezbollah gets immersed in the Syrian conflict, the more it is exposed to attacks from its adversaries in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Arab website Al Hakika reported details on another significant event - the attack last Thursday night at the port north of Latakia. The website attributed the attack to Israel, saying it destroyed advanced Russian Yakhont surface-to-sea missiles. Al Hakika added that the missiles were hit from the sea, from an Israeli Dolphin submarine. This was the first time an Arab media outlet has directly pointed a finger at Israel.
"There are many explosions in the area," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday during a visit to a training base. "Our borders are quiet, and we shouldn't take that for granted. We're following what's happening in Beirut. It's a battle between Shi'ites and Sunnis. We're not intervening."
When asked about the Latakia attack, he said that "for a long time now we haven't been intervening in the bloody war in Syria. We presented our red lines in Syria. An explosion or air strike in the Middle East? We're usually blamed."
Ya'alon reiterated the red lines that would prompt an Israeli intervention in Syria: attempts to transfer chemical weapons from the Assad regime, attempts to transfer other sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah like anti-aircraft missiles, Yakhont missiles or precise surface-to-surface missiles, and attempts to strike Israel from Syria at the Golan Heights border.
The recent events in Syria, coupled with the tension in Egypt, reflect the hardships facing Israel's leaders. Not only are the events unfolding rapidly and unexpectedly, but the possible Israeli response is of course limited. Israel, as Ya'alon said, is trying to be a marginal actor in the Arab drama.
The dilemma is between limited intervention in an attempt to thwart a specific threat, and the fear of being dragged into the center of events. On the Egyptian border, the main Israeli effort is to prevent attacks by Islamic organizations in the Sinai Peninsula, a secondary front in their battle with Egyptian security forces.
Israel can apply diplomatic pressure on Egypt, directly or through the United States, in its desire to restore order in Sinai. Still, Jerusalem is aware that the peninsula isn't on top of the interim government's priority list, as it tries to absorb the rage of the Muslim Brotherhood after its violent removal from power. The Israel Defense Forces can address the terror threats from Sinai only when armed terrorists approach the border fence.
It seems that without admitting it, Israel would be willing to put up with many dangers as long as it safeguards its most precious achievement - the peace treaty with Egypt. For the same reasons, it lets Egypt violate the military annex to the treaty forbidding deployments in Sinai reinforced for short periods by tanks and helicopters. Israel argues that these would do a better job handling the Islamist cells operating among the Bedouin tribes.
There seems to be a gap between the exceptional quiet - as far as most Israelis are concerned - and the growing potential for trouble at the borders - in Sinai, the Golan Heights and to a certain extent on the Lebanese border. The borders are calm because most of the armed forces in Syria and Egypt are concentrating on their internal struggles.
Still, there's a good chance that with time the internal violence will be reflected in tensions with Israel. The gathering of more and more militants who identify with Osama bin Laden's ideology seems likely to lead to attempts to strike Israel.
This process is already under way, in a limited scope, on the Egyptian border. This is expected to happen on the Syrian border. It's a less worrying scenario than a conventional military confrontation with Syria - whose chances are lower than ever due to the civil war.
In the south of the Golan Heights, near where Israel, Jordan and Syria meet, sits a UN outpost deserted by international observers months ago when the fighting between the Syrian army and extremist Sunni rebels escalated. The observers fled, and the outpost is now held by a small group of armed Sunni extremists.
From the Israeli side of the border you can easily spot them. When they're not fighting Assad's forces they spend their time in the small swimming pool abandoned by the UN soldiers. Sooner or later they might seek some other pastime on the western side of the fence.