News / Middle East

Israel On Guard as Fighting in Syria Comes Closer

Smoke rises from the Israeli occupied Golan Heights near the Kuneitra border crossing, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, June 6, 2013.Smoke rises from the Israeli occupied Golan Heights near the Kuneitra border crossing, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, June 6, 2013.
x
Smoke rises from the Israeli occupied Golan Heights near the Kuneitra border crossing, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, June 6, 2013.
Smoke rises from the Israeli occupied Golan Heights near the Kuneitra border crossing, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, June 6, 2013.
Scott Bobb
Fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near Syria's cease-fire line with Israel and along Syria's border with Lebanon has underscored Israeli fears the Syrian conflict increasingly is drawing closer. Israel says it is neutral but will respond if its security is threatened.
 
Israeli troops in the Golan Heights watched Thursday as Syrian government forces and rebels battled for control of a crossing on the Syrian side of the cease-fire line that separates Syria and the Jewish state.

It was another reminder for Israelis of how close the Syrian conflict is getting.  

The expanding Syria fighting has Israel worried about security along its border, as noted this week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Heightened security concerns

He said the Middle East is going through a highly sensitive time: turmoil, revolutions and many changes. Netanyahu also said Israel has no interest in becoming a part of these conflicts, but is prepared to prevent any threat to Israel's security.
 
Rockets and gunfire from battles between Syrian rebels and government forces have hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on several occasions, bringing Israeli retaliation.
 
In addition, Israeli planes have struck in Syria at weaponry that Israel says was being transferred to Lebanon's Hezbollah group. Israel considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview this week on Hezbollah's al-Manar television that his forces would retaliate against Israel. He said Syria has responded directly to several Israeli violations in the past, and this depends on the feeling of the people. He said there is clear popular pressure on Syria to open the Golan front for resistance.
 
An analyst with Tel Aviv's Institute for National Security Studies, Bernedetta Berti, said that although the Syrian conflict has not affected Israelis a great deal, security in the Golan is a concern.
 
"There is a fear that the area bordering the Golan might increasingly become unstable, ungoverned and a magnet for foreign fighters, jihadis, or just in general militants who may have an antagonistic agenda with respect to Israel," said Berti.

Treading carefully

Hebrew University Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Moshe Ma'oz noted that Islamic militants have joined both sides in the Syrian conflict. He said the situation bears watching but urges caution on any Israeli response.
 
"They are dangerous. They are motivated. They are ideological. But they are not very numerous. And many of them are not Syrians at all. And they endanger also the main body of the Syrian rebels," said Ma'oz.
 
Israeli authorities are especially concerned that advanced weapons or chemical weapons might come under the control of Hezbollah or other Islamist groups.

Israel says it will not allow this to happen, and its planes reportedly have struck such weapons in Syria on several occasions this year.
 
Analyst Berti said the Israeli air strikes have been few and deliberately restrained.
 
"This was an intervention that was, in the Israeli perception, selective and not meant to trigger broader involvement. In other words it was more a signaling to both Assad and Hezbollah that Israel was not going to tolerate such transfers of weapons," said Berti.

Fears of regional conflict

Israel has said it also would respond if Russia tries to deliver advanced S-300 air defense missiles to Syria as it has promised.
 
Analyst Ma'oz said he does not believe Syria or Lebanon want to reignite a conventional war with Israel. But he said Syria's escalating civil war could have unintended side effects.
 
"It's a dangerous situation and it can deteriorate into a regional war. And Israel has to be very careful to avoid further provocation," he said.
 
The U.S. government, Russia and United Nations are trying to convene an international conference aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, though most analysts are not optimistic. The proposed peace gathering will not take place until at least July.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials remain vigilant as fighting rages in nearby Syria.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKf from: Ottawa, Canada
June 15, 2013 9:46 PM
Historically, it is usually not a good idea for a bordering country to get involved in a civil war. Israel, so far, has maintained a neutral position, and it is the right option and choice. At the same time, any attempts to have a deliberate spill over, of a civil war, into an adjacent country need to be stopped immediately; and a buffer zone of at least double the distance of the longest range weapon utilized, in the spill over needs to be maintained. In my view, the situation on the Golan, is very risky, especially given all the threats that Assad has made re:opening a front against Israel on the Golan. Given that Syria has an airforce, and missiles with a range of several hundred Kms, any indications that a front against Israel is about to be initiated or it has been initiated, would have deadly consequences fot Syria's Assad; Israel, or any other nation in similar circumstances, would have no choice, but to respond in a very significant way. I hope this bleak scenario, does not occurr, because such a required response would in all likelyhood completely change the balance of power in Syria. So fa,r Israel has maintained a neutral position, in that it has not involved itself in trying to change the balance of military power in Syria, which I hope will remain unchanged. Assad has made a number of other serious errors, potentially he could make one more....

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 13, 2013 9:36 AM
What is the understanding for positioning a standing army in the Golan Heights? If the UN is not willing to maintain the standing order, then let Israel which conquered it in the past move in and take care of it until the UN wakes up from sleep. It should not be Russia at all, an unpredictable lot. Austria pulled out this week for security reasons. If a peacekeeping mission is not able to maintain its status, then it is not worth its salt. This requires an urgent action to replace the ones that pulled out, because a war between Israel and its unfriendly neighbors goes beyond acceptable war-games rules. So it's either the UN moves quickly or Israel makes the move. The bottom line is Israel and the neighborhood must be safe.

by: Anonymous
June 07, 2013 9:10 PM
So Putin is offering to put troops in the Golan heights, that would never happen. Russia wants to get their nose in there, Putin has to realize once the war in Syria is over, the Russian Navy & Army will never be welcomed in Syria again. Are you really that stupid Putin? Do you think Israel would ever want your men in the Golan Heights? You must either be a) On glue or b) just plain stupid.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs