Israel tanks knock out Syrian mortars shelling Golan. Assad tests Israel’s resolve in Gaza too
Another shell landed near the Israeli defense position at El Hazaka on the Golan Monday, Nov. 12, less than 24 hours after Damascus promised through UNDOF peacekeepers to silence the mortar battery responsible for “stray shells” landing in Israel. The promise was delivered after Israel fired a Tamuz guided missile 4 kilometers into Syria as a warning shot. So Monday, Israeli tank guns opened fire on Syrian army positions and knocked out the battery responsible for sending shells across the border into Israel.
debkafile’s military sources: While Israel accepted the first three incidents as accidental intrusions from the Syrian civil war, the shell fired Monday was seen as a deliberate act of provocation. Our sources report that having observed Israel’s restrained response to the first mortar and lack of resolve to Palestinian violence from Gaza, the Syrian ruler decided to test Israel further to see what he can get away with by pinning the IDF down on two fronts.
And that may be just for starters.
While Israeli officials and IDF spokesmen insist that the two fronts are not connected, debkafile’s intelligence sources report that the restraint exhibited by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak thus far risks landing Israel in really hot water on two if not three violent fronts. Hizballah is lurking around the corner in Lebanon to jump in when the situation heats up and provide additional back-up for their joint Palestinian ally in the Gaza Strip.
debkafile reported Sunday night: The Palestinian missile offensive from Gaza was still going strong Sunday night, Nov. 11, after two days and more than 110 rockets – for a number of reasons, debkafile reports. For one, Hamas can’t bring all the Palestinian militias ranged against Israel under a single operational command center contrary to its claim. The most important groups, the Iranian-backed Jihad Islami, the various Salafi extremist factions – some associated with al Qaeda – and the Popular Front all cling to their independence of action. Any Hamas order to hold their fire, if it were given, would be disobeyed. This defiance is eroding Hamas’authority as rulers of Gaza.
Furthermore, Hamas and fellow terrorist group leaders believe Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is undecided about how to proceed in Gaza. They are counting on his being unable to bring himself to order a major military operation to cut them down to size and put a stop to the deadly cycle of a rocket barrage recurring every few days, year after year. And so the shooting goes on.
debkafile’s military sources report that Egyptian military intelligence chief Gen. Mohamed al-Assad entered the scene Sunday, Nov. 11 to try his hand at brokering yet another truce. He has his work cut out – not just to bring the Gaza government and Israel together, but also to line up the rival factions of Gaza in concurrence.
The Egyptian general knows from past experience that the best he can achieve is a tacit, fragile truce to which Hamas and Israel acquiesce silently on the principle of reciprocity: both sides must hold their fire and if the Palestinian go back to violence, the IDF will hit back.
Similar arrangements have rarely held up in the past beyond a few weeks at most. But this time, new elements have crept in. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his government, who until now stood in the wings of military activity, decided Sunday to pledge solidarity with the Palestinian missile jihad against Israel.
After all, the Islamist Hamas movement is dedicated by its charter to Israel’s destruction.
The view in Washington, which is involved in the chase for a truce, is that Haniyeh’s action promises that any ceasefire will be short-lived, measured in days rather than weeks. Gaza’s rulers are convinced they are well placed to exploit the Israeli prime minister’s irresolution as he goes into a campaign for reelection (on Jan. 22, 2013) by turning up the heat on Israel.
But Netanyahu has another kind of pressure to consider. The million-strong constituency of southern Israel may not let him get away with a temporary, fragile stoppage of the rockets that make their lives unbearable. They may make him pay for inaction at the ballot-box.
Netanyahu must also take into consideration that a major IDF operation in Gaza might risk igniting two more war fronts, should Hamas’ allies Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah come to its aid.
Regarding Syria, Israel fired a Tamuz guided missile 4 kilometers into Syria as a warning to Damascus that Israel would not tolerate ordnance from the Syrian civil war continuing to fall on Israeli Golan. It was a warning shot after a shell landed in Moshav Alonei Bashan.
debkafile’s intelligence sources reveal that Damascus send back through UNDORF peacemakers a message of reassurance that the spillover into Israel would stop. Israel was given to understand that the mortar position responsible for the stray shell landing in the moshav had been silenced.
Our military sources note that the battery may have been silenced but it was not pulled back. In fact it remains in the same position as before. Therefore, it stands ready to fire in the event of a decision in Damascus to resume firing shells into Israel. Netanyahu is keeping a weather eye on that sector, as well as the Gaza front.