“Leafing through the newspapers, one gets the impression that a new war is around the corner while, actually, Israel has no intention to engage in armed conflicts in the north or south.” In particular, the “hawk” Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Defence, attempts to cool the predictions of those who foresee a new conflict in Israel and in the region, specifically on the border between Lebanon, Syria and Israel-occupied Golan.
The signs are all there. In the past 48 hours, the Israeli army has hit two posts and a truck loaded with ammunition for the Syrian army, after mortar shells were shot from Syria into the Golan. In addition to errant shots, fired during the struggles between government forces and al-Qaeda and jihadist groups operating in southern Syria and near the Golan.
For Israel, which welcomes the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad and recently was once again accused of having stable contacts with the armed jihadist groups in the Golan, the Damascus government is responsible for these errant shots fired from Syria. Therefore, its reaction is triggered against Syrian troops.
In spite of the water thrown on the fire by Minister of Defense Lieberman, the risk of a new war keeps increasing. The parties raise their voices. Damascus warned it will not tolerate any more Israeli attacks. Tel Aviv accuses the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah of multiplying their observation posts under the coverage of the environmental organization “Green without frontiers.” The head of the military intelligence services, Hertzi Halevi, protested a few days ago that “Hezbollah carries out observation missions, claiming that these are activities of this environmental organization.”
For its part, Hezbollah warns on the “maintenance works” that Israel will start along the barrier that separates it from Lebanon in the next few days. According to Hezbollah, the Israelis will seize the opportunity to change the boundary line between the two countries to their advantage. The Israeli media argue that the Shiite guerrillas will start sabotaging the works.
Behind these verbal skirmishes, there are concealed preparations for the second round of the 2006 war in South Lebanon, and it is possible that Israel will also attack Syria. Things in Tel Aviv are different from what was predicted several years ago. Bashar Assad is firmly in place, the Syrian troops are taking back control of much of the territory and Hezbollah has become a leading actor in the region. The latter has not weakened at all, as some Israeli generals had predicted, as a result of its military casualties in Syria.
Few acknowledge it but it is clear that Damascus has won. Israel does not say so but it knows that’s true and it also knows that the military success over the opponents, backed by Sunni petromonarchies, created a new strategic reality.
Tel Aviv and Amman (and the US Air Force) work together to prevent the Syrian soldiers and allied militias from taking control of the border lines with the occupied Golan and Jordan, but they will not be able to prevent it for long.
Most of all, Israel knows that this time, were it to launch a “preemptive strike”, it may have to open fire not only against the Lebanese Shiite guerrillas but also the Pakistanis, Iranians and Afghans who are now fighting in Syria against the jihadists.
The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned: “I’m not saying that certain countries would intervene directly but it would open the door to hundreds of thousands of fighters from the Arab and Muslim world to join the fight.”
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