The estimated eight shells spilling in as many days from the Syrian war onto the Golan – and the three Israeli air strikes in reprisal against Syrian army targets – are beginning to sound ominously like Israel’s longstanding automatic tit-for-tat-air-for-rockets relations with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip – never mind who fires them.
The latest round occurred Wednesday night, Sept. 13, the day after a fragile truce was due to go into effect in the Syrian war.
According to debkafile’s military sources, the Israeli air raid against a Syrian army artillery battery was misplaced. The shells came from the rebel side of the battle.
At the same time, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman may have used the stray shells as a pretext to strike the Syrian position and get at the pro-Iranian Hizballah unit posted in the Quneitra area directly opposite Israel’s Golan border.
As for the battle, our military sources report that the Syrian Al-Qaeda branch, the rebel Jabhat al Nusra, re-branded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, launched it five days ago. The militia’s purpose was to create a land bridge between its forces deployed south of Quneitra and its units positioned to the north of the key town, by seizing Tel al-Ahmar from Syrian forces.
In the heat of battle, rebel shells strayed across the border into the Golan.
Israel’s relations with the various Syrian rebel groups holding positions or fighting near its borders have had their ups and downs. The main problem is that whenever the Druze villages in the vicinity – currently surrounded by rebel forces – are under threat, especially Al Khadar, their Syrian and Israeli leaders turn to Israel with a demand to intervene and save them.
Israel has always resisted their pressure.
Had the rebel militia been able to capture Tel al-Ahmar, just 5km from the Israeli border, it would have attained control of the strategic “Red Hills,” which command the main Syrian Golan town of Quneitra and the highway link from southern Syria to Damascus.
But the rebel offensive failed and cost the Al-Sham Front heavy casualties, some of whom were evacuated to Israel for medical treatment.
Some of Israel’s reactions were puzzling.
Although the shells spilling over from the battle onto the Israeli side of the border came from the rebel side, the Israeli air force Tuesday, Sept. 13, focused its raid on Abu Qaouq northeast of Quneitra. It is from there that Syrian artillery provides support for the Syrian army defenders of the strategic Tel al-Ahmar.
However, the policy pursued by the Netanyahu government is that the government in power is responsible for any aggressive acts emanating from its territory – even though the Assad regime does not rule large parts of Syria, including, in this case, the strip between Quneitra and Israel’s Golan border.
It is also hard to see why an Israeli military spokesman stated that Syrian army S-200 missiles were fired at the Israeli aircraft as they struck Syrian positions – and missed. Damascus trumpeted the false claim that Syrian missiles had shot down an Israeli jet and a drone. Instead of denying the fictitious incident outright, or ignoring it, the IDF’s statement gave the Assad regime a badly-needed propaganda boost