Israel caught in the Syrian gear

Home"TO THE ONE"Israel caught in the Syrian gear
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In November 2017, a "de-escalation zone" on the Syrian Golan slope was negotiated. - Photo credits: Ammar Awad / REUTERS

INFOGRAPHICS - The Jewish state fears a sustainable settlement of Iran on their northern border. His strikes cause fear of escalation.

From our correspondent in Jerusalem

Clouds are piling up on the border between Israel, Syria and Lebanon. For the second time in a month, according to the army of Bashar al-Assad, IDF hit Wednesday a military site near Damascus where the regime is suspected of making missiles and chemical weapons. Israeli leaders have been hammering for weeks that they will oppose by all means the development of military infrastructure controlled by Iran or its Hezbollah allies on Syrian territory. "We are prepared for all scenarios," said Benyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, "and I do not advise anyone to test our resolve." "The new phase in which the Syrian conflict has entered increases the risk of escalation involving Israel," say analysts at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank in a report to be released Thursday (*).

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During the first five years of the war, Israel stood apart from the conflict while enforcing some clearly defined "red lines". Nearly a hundred times, his aircraft targeted convoys or sophisticated weapons depots to prevent their transfer to Hezbollah. Strikes were also carried out against Lebanese Shiite militia leaders and Iranian officers in charge of establishing advanced bases near the ceasefire line crossing the Golan, as well as in response to projectiles fired against Israel. But the reconquest, during the last year, large parts of the territory by Bashar al-Assad has gradually relegated these objectives to the background.

Israeli strategists, who fear more than anything a long-lasting settlement of Iran on their northern border, believe that this concern is not sufficiently taken into account in the negotiations conducted under the auspices of Moscow. In recent months, they have therefore set new red lines. No question, they said, that the Islamic Republic is acquiring a port, an airport or permanent military bases on Syrian soil. Neither are factories capable of producing high-precision missiles for the benefit of Hezbollah, whether in Syria or Lebanon. Finally, according to military sources interviewed by ICG analysts, the Jewish state is ready to hit fighters of the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah or other Shiite militias approaching the ceasefire line .

Risk of conflagration

The establishment, negotiated last November, of a "de-escalation zone" on the Syrian Golan slope, aside for the moment this perspective. "But it is likely that the army of Bashar al-Assad will sooner or later try to regain control of this area and that it will have to rely on Shiite militias," warns Ofer Zalzberg, one of the authors of the report, which adds: "It would then be enough of a miscalculation to cause a major conflict." The extension of the territory on which Israel allows itself to conduct strikes, today in the heart of Syria and tomorrow, maybe, in Lebanon, also increases the risk of conflagration. Hezbollah has recently raised the tone of its warnings.

In this volatile context, ICG analysts believe that Moscow would have every interest in quickly redefining the "rules of the game" between Israel and its opponents - at the risk of seeing its efforts reduced to nothing by a new fire. The Hebrew State, they suggest, could resolve to have the Islamic Republic maintain an economic presence in Syria, and that the militia withdraw only gradually. Tehran, in return, would give up developing military infrastructure and stay away from the Golan. Such a scenario, however, is deemed unlikely by Sarah Fainberg, a senior lecturer at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. "The Russian leaders themselves," she says, "recognize that they are finding it increasingly difficult to control Iran's expansionist aims."

(*) Israel, Hezbollah and Iran: Preventing another war in Syria

Source: ©  Israel caught in the Syrian gear

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