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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora