Syria Civil War Again Spilling Into Israel, but This Time It's Deliberate

Assad loyalists likely shot the missile that killed the Israeli teen; the rebels hold only a short strip near the border and the anti-tank missile was considerably advanced.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Syrian army soldiers loyal to Assad walk in Talet Alghaliya, after claiming to have regained control of the area. February 17, 2014.
Syrian army soldiers loyal to Assad walk in Talet Alghaliya, after claiming to have regained control of the area. February 17, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The air force’s attack in Syria has put events on the northern front into focus. For now there has been no change in Israel’s priorities or a dramatic turnabout on the Golan border. The anti-tank missile that killed a 14-year-old boy Sunday required a firm response by Israel, and it came overnight: the bombing of nine Syrian military targets near the border.

Israel doesn’t claim that the Assad regime or militias linked to it were behind Sunday’s attack. The army only said that Israel saw the Syrian regime as responsible for anything that happened on the border, so military positions and headquarters were targeted.

Regarding Sunday’s attack, it’s hard to make a conclusion on the shooter’s identity since a war is in progress on the other side of the fence. Extremist Sunni groups fighting to overthrow the government control most border areas, but no proof has been found (despite intelligence agencies' abundant predictions) that these groups seek to commit terror attacks against Israel.

The regime and loyalists hold two blocs comprising more than 10 percent of the border with Israel: the Hermon region and the adjacent Druze village of Hadr, and south of it near the town of Quneitra. Sunday’s incident took place north of Quneitra. Still, most signs suggest that the missile was fired by loyalists.

First, the rebels hold only a short strip near the border and are constantly fighting the regime’s forces surrounding them. Second, the missile was pretty advanced: a Russian-made Kornet similar to the one that struck Israeli tanks at Wadi Saluki at the end of the Second Lebanon War. The missile might have fallen into the rebels’ hands, but more likely it was fired by the Syrian army or a militia linked to it.

There have been five other incidents along the border since early this year. Four paratroopers were wounded in the worst of them, when a bomb exploded. One remains in critical condition. Defense officials believe that this was the work of Hezbollah cooperating with the Assad regime, perhaps via local groups.

That attack looked like a Hezbollah response to Israel’s alleged air strikes on arms convoys en route to Lebanon from Syria, not to mention the mysterious assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative, Hassan Hawlo al-Laqqis, in December. One gets the impression that a more ambitious Hezbollah is willing to risk action in other arenas to deter Israel.

The death of the Israeli teenager Sunday took place against the heavy backdrop of the Syrian civil war. One development is the wild behavior of ISIS, which is linked to Al-Qaida in Iraq. Another is the attack by Assad’s army on rebel outposts in the town of Daraa in the south of the country.

Supposedly, neither side is winning in Syria. In reality, the massacres are continuing at full tilt. It seems that this time the violence that spilled over into Israel was deliberate.

An Israeli soldier carries a tank shell near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, June 22, 2014.
An Israeli soldier holds a tank shell near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, June 22, 2014.
An Israeli soldier holds a tank shell near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, June 22, 2014.
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An Israeli soldier carries a tank shell near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, June 22, 2014.Credit: Reuters
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An Israeli soldier holds a tank shell near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, June 22, 2014.Credit: Reuters
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An Israeli soldier holds a tank shell near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, June 22, 2014.Credit: Reuters
IDF carries out air strikes against Syria

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Operation Brother’s Keeper has entered its 11th day with little news on the ultimate goal: finding the kidnapped teens and capturing the Hamas terrorist cell that abducted them. The army appears to realize that the many arrests of Hamas people and the raids on the offices of civilian groups linked to that group have accomplished almost all they can.

For that reason, defense officials recommend returning to the original goal — focusing on the kidnapped boys. This will be done by continued large-scale searches in open areas north and west of Hebron, along with sharpened intelligence efforts by the Shin Bet security service.

Toward the end of the week, a decision will have to be made on whether to maintain the current number of troops, which includes about four infantry brigades, to keep up the search or free some of them up for other tasks. In any case, army officials say the question of finding the kidnapped boys will not be neglected until it is resolved.

And let’s not forget the common need for recognition. The police, many of whose units are taking part in the searches, want credit of their own. Occasionally, the desire for credit drifts into the absurd, such as the announcement Monday by the Israeli police in the West Bank — the same police whose emergency dispatcher fumbled the call from the kidnapped boys.

The police lauded their people in the Jerusalem region the night before; it turns out that in an operation in Palestinian villages, eight people were arrested and “inciteful material and various accessories for demonstrations” were confiscated.

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