Syrian Downing of Israeli drone Raises Specter of Syrian Scuds

The Lebanon war raging between Israel and HIzballah took an alarming detour Friday, July 28, when, according to debkafile‘s military sources, Syrian air defense batteries ambushed and shot down an Israeli spy drone (picture) flying on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria.
These drones have been used to “paint” the weapons convoys heading in from Syria, for the Israeli air force to hit them before they can reach their destinations and replenish Hizballah stockpiles.
This time, the Syrians knocked the drone out of the sky to allow a large consignment of rocket launchers and truckloads of rockets to cross into Lebanon undetected and safe from Israeli air attack.
The pilotless craft crashed on the eastern slopes of Jebel Barukh. The IDF bulletin evaded mention of the Syrian role and reported that a technical fault had caused the crash and the fragments had been destroyed from the air to prevent their falling into the hands of Hizballah.
While Israeli leaders reiterate constantly that Israel has no intention of going to war with Syria, Damascus openly supports Hizballah with massive injections of weapons and other aid. It has already crossed several red lines.
1. A Syrian weapons system opened fire on an Israeli target for the first time.
2. The ambush of the Israeli drone by Syrian air defenses was a calculated move to clear the way for Syrian convoys loaded with rockets and rocket launchers to roll into Lebanon free of constant bombardment by Israel warplanes.
3. The drone was shot down while flying in Lebanese air space. This was a signal from Damascus to Israel that it would not scruple to target Israeli military forces inside Lebanon when its interests were deemed to be in jeopardy. Earlier this week, the Syrian information minister Buthaina Chabane declared that if Israeli artillery came within 20 km of Damascus, Syria would fight.
Israel’s official spokesmen and its military held back from answering her, just as the Americans let Syria get away with its hostile interference in the Iraq war.
Although Bashar Assad has turned his country into a central hub and highway for fighters, arms, explosives and cash to bolster the Iraq insurgency, Syria has gone unpunished except for a single American air attack on a busload of Hizballah fighters heading into Iraq.
debkafile‘s military sources report that some members of Israel’s high command criticize this policy of restraint as encouraging the Syrians to deepen their involvement in the conflict and bolstering Hizballah’s endurance for long-term combat. Other generals defend this policy, arguing that while Syria placed its military on a state of high preparedness from the start of the war, Syrian military doctrine assigns its Scud missiles a defensive not an offensive role. Therefore, an Israeli attack on a Syrian target might well trigger a Scud missile assault on Israeli military or civilian locations.

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