Following Report in Syria Newspaper |

Palestinian Source Tells Haaretz: Assad's Green Light to Strike Israel Merely Symbolic

In interview with Haaretz, PFLP-GC source casts doubt on report in Alawite Syrian newspaper alleging that the Assad regime encouraged response attacks against Israel; source says escalation unexpected to ensue, as both sides likely to exercise restraint.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

A senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command told Haaretz on Tuesday that the green light given by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime to respond to alleged Israeli strikes was not intended to spark an escalation on the Golan Heights front, but was rather an expression of the Syrian leadership's support for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian source, who does not live in Damascus but has close ties with the PFLP-GC's Syrian branch, described the regime's message as a political statement rather than a call to arms, "since such activity would set the entire region alight."

The source spoke to Haaretz in response to reports published earlier Tuesday in the Alawite Syrian newspaper Al-Watansaying that the Assad regime has given a green light to all relevant actors to respond immediately to any Israeli aggression and even allowed Palestinian factions to carry out operations against Israel from the Golan Heights.

According to Al-Watan, the regime is committed to providing these parties with weapons and ammunition, and listed a "bank of targets" inside Israel. Furthermore, the report alleged that the Syrian army had positioned officers on the ground, who were instructed to act immediately against any new Israeli aggression, and that missiles were positioned in locations that could hurt targets deep inside Israel.

However, the PFLP-GC source expressed doubts as to the viability of an escalation ensuing, saying it was likely to remain only a proclamation.

"Israel would hold the Assad regime directly responsible for all [hostile] actions, even those of Palestinian organizations," the source told Haaretz. "Especially the PFLP-GC, under the leadership of Ahmed Jabril, who is considered a kind of protegee of the regime."

The source added that Israel sent calming messages via Russia with the intention of preventing an escalation and, at face value, it appears that both sides will act with maximum restraint.

Most Palestinian groups in Syria have remained on the sidelines of the two-year conflict, but PFLP-GC has been fighting alongside government troops, against rebels trying to topple Assad. While most factions in Syria operate independently, their agendas have been set by the regime.

Since 1973, the Syrian regime prevented escalation along the Golan Heights front and, in particular, focused on supporting and protecting Palestinian organizations, in particular those who objected to Fatah. First among them are Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP-GC. However, since the civil war erupted in March 2011, Hamas has abandoned Assad, turning to Doha, the capital of Qatar, and the Syrian rebels instead. Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, on the other hand, adopted a more passive stance, saying the situation is a domestic issue and leaves no room for intervention.

They have maintained this stance despite what Palestinian refugee camps that are still there. In particular, the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, where more than 1,000 people have died, thousands have been wounded and tens of thousands have fled. Both sides of the conflict – the Assad regime and the rebels – have exchanged accusations of who drew the refugee camps into the conflict.

Israeli soldiers patrol the border with Syria.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Israeli tanks are seen close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, near Alonei Habashan in the Golan Heights November 7, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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