The estimated eight shells spilling in as many days from the Syrian war onto the Golan – and the three Israeli air strikes in reprisal against Syrian army targets – are beginning to sound ominously like Israel’s longstanding automatic tit-for-tat-air-for-rockets relations with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip – never mind who fires them.
The latest round occurred Wednesday night, Sept. 13, the day after a fragile truce was due to go into effect in the Syrian war.
According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the Israeli air raid against a Syrian army artillery battery was misplaced. The shells came from the rebel side of the battle.
At the same time, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman may have used the stray shells as a pretext to strike the Syrian position and get at the pro-Iranian Hizballah unit posted in the Quneitra area directly opposite Israel’s Golan border.
As for the battle, our military sources report that the Syrian Al-Qaeda branch, the rebel Jabhat al Nusra, re-branded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, launched it five days ago. The militia’s purpose was to create a land bridge between its forces deployed south of Quneitra and its units positioned to the north of the key town, by seizing Tel al-Ahmar from Syrian forces.
In the heat of battle, rebel shells strayed across the border into the Golan.
Israel’s relations with the various Syrian rebel groups holding positions or fighting near its borders have had their ups and downs. The main problem is that whenever the Druze villages in the vicinity – currently surrounded by rebel forces – are under threat, especially Al Khadar, their Syrian and Israeli leaders turn to Israel with a demand to intervene and save them.
Israel has always resisted their pressure.
Had the rebel militia been able to capture Tel al-Ahmar, just 5km from the Israeli border, it would have attained control of the strategic “Red Hills,” which command the main Syrian Golan town of Quneitra and the highway link from southern Syria to Damascus.
But the rebel offensive failed and cost the Al-Sham Front heavy casualties, some of whom were evacuated to Israel for medical treatment.
Some of Israel’s reactions were puzzling.