Syria Winds up Planning for Campaign of Terror on Golan
On June 26, Syria opened the Damascus-Golan road to Quneitra to civilian traffic for the first time since the Six-Day War of 1967. No announcement was made. The dozens of military roadblocks studding the 60 km high road connecting the capital with the Syrian part of Golan for 40 years were removed, except for two – one at the entrance to Qunetra from the Syrian end and one at the town’s exit to Israeli Golan. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that this measure went mostly unnoticed, although it made Israeli military intelligence sit up.
Until this week, civilian traffic heading towards Syria’s Golan border with Israel was discouraged by the government in Damascus; a traveler needed eight different pieces of paper and endless waits to get past the military roadblocks. All of a sudden, the powers-that-be in the Syrian capital decided to allow civilians free passage to Golan meaning preparations are complete for the launch of a cross-border campaign of terror in the Israel sector of the territory. Such a campaign could quickly escalate into a full-scale war.
The day the road was opened, Syria celebrated the 33rd anniversary of Quneitra’s liberation, i.e. the signing of the armistice agreement with Israel which delineated the provisional border between the two countries and ended the 1973 Yom Kippur war and ensuing war of attrition. Quneitra, which was captured by Israel in 1967, was ceded to Syria on condition it was kept demilitarized.
The Syrian official publication Tishreen marked the event by writing:
Since the first moment of taking oath as President of the Republic, Bashar Al-Assad made it clear that the Golan always remains in the center until it returns to the homeland, Syria. This is an inevitable day. The return of Golan to Syria is non-negotiable.
Under such circumstances in which the Israelis continue to reject all Arab bids for reaching a just and comprehensive peace settlement, the option of national resistance remains the only open legitimate course for the liberation of the occupied Arab lands and the restoration of usurped rights.
Golan, the biblical Bashan, is a narrow basalt plateau, part of the Sea of Galilee’s catchment basin, which provides 30% of Israel’s water. Israeli jurisdiction was formally extended to Golan in 1981.
In speeches he made in the last three months, Bashar Assad made a point of referring to the mounting pressure of refugees from Golan living in Syria to take “liberation” in their own hands. Official Syrian figures put the number of “Golan Heights refugees” at 410,000, a figure which is grossly exaggerated to highlight their suffering. The real refugee figure from this tiny sliver of 1,070 sq. km. of land is no more than 60-70,000, around half of whom are crowded into the Wafadin camp on the western outskirts of Damascus.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources disclose that a year ago, in June 2006, Syrian military intelligence recruited several hundred Golan refugees for a new framework called the Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights. They were trained for terror operations, blowing up roads and bridges, attacks on military camps and convoys and hostage-taking. Three months ago, the Front struck for the first time, detonating an explosive device on the border fence as an Israeli patrol passed by.
Israeli and Western military and intelligence interpret the opening of the Damascus-Quneitra highway to civilians as a gambit to give the Front free rein to cross into Israeli Golan for terrorist operations against civilian and military targets, without Syria being held responsible. This gives the Assad government an alibi for claiming it has no control over the traffic traversing the road to the border, the same pretext it has used for years in allowing terrorists, arms and money to infiltrate Iraq and Lebanon.
Israel can be expected to be a lot less tolerant of Syrian attacks on the Golan than the Americans are in Iraq – whatever the name of the “resistance” framework.