Fearing Syrian reaction to rumored Israeli airstrike on Syria-Lebanon border, IDF command gives patrolling forces armored vehicles.
By Yoav Zitun, Roi Kais
The tensions on the northern border following Israel’s alleged strike in Lebanon have not skipped over the Golan Heights. The IDF Northern Command’s decision to raise the level of alert fearing a Hezbollah retaliation also affects the border with Syria, that has turned into a border as dangerous and as sensitive as the Lebanese border.
Troops on the Golan Heights were also instructed to raise the level of alert out of concern retaliatory strikes will come from the Syrian side of the border. The IDF is worried that it would be the Global Jihad, that fights against Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah in both Syria and Lebanon, will take advantage of the rising tensions to fire rockets at northern Israel and with that drag Israel into an armed confrontation against Hassan Nasrallah’s organization.
The rising tensions also led the IDF to change the type of vehicles used by troops patrolling the border. The troops securing the border were given armor protected Hummers instead of the light defenders the soldiers used to patrol the border fence with. This was done out of concern troops will be hit with explosive devices, like an incident that occurred two months ago on the northern Golan Heights. That explosion may not have caused any casualties, but the patrolling jeep was damaged.
The Hermon Division, which is stationed on the border triangle between Israel, Syria and Lebanon, says that the new, recently completed, border fence prevents any criminal smuggling attempts in the Majdal Shams area. Despite that, commanders in the divisions are worried that there will be more attempts to target soldiers: “It’s only a matter of time until the next explosive device incident. We still don’t know who is responsible for the last incident two months ago.”
Assad’s forces still rule over the northern Golan, unlike most areas near the border that have been taken by the rebels. The battles happen right in front of the IDF’s eyes, and for a while now include more than just machine guns, tanks and cannons. Syrian Air Force planes are dropping bombs from a distance on villages near the border that have been taken by the rebels. The increased movement of Syrian fighter jets led in recent months to many incidents in which IAF planes were launched against them. In all of these cases, as far as we know, these launches ended without confrontation.
The rebels are usually those who shed light on the fighting in Syria. They boast of their battles and their victories on social media. The other day, however, a video surfaced that shows the way the Syrian army fights the fierce battles with the rebels along the Golan Heights border. Lebanese news site al-Nashra posted images in which Syrian tanks and heavy artillery are bombing, according to the report, rebel forces near the border with Israel. In addition, the images show how the Syrian army is moving its forces towards the border.
In recent days, battles between rebel forces and Assad’s forces have only intensified. Syrian army officials told the Lebanese news site that the fighting between the two sides on the Golan Heights take place right in front of IDF troops, who the sources say publicly offer logistic help to the Free Syrian Army. The official accused Israel of providing the rebels with equipment and opening hospitals near the border for them.
The battles on the Golan Heights take place mostly in villages only five kilometers from the border. The Lebanese report said that the area’s importance comes from the fact it is near the Shebaa farms. The Israeli goal, the report claimed, is to extend its influence into Syrian areas near the border. The Lebanese site quoted reports that say that Israel is trying to create a border strip in Quneitra with Syrians on the other side that will have similar relations with the IDF as the ones with Southern Lebanon soldiers.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4493740,00.html