Syrian army warns Israel of “repercussions” if it attacks targets in Syria again.
The Syrian army on Wednesday warned Israel against attacking targets in Syria again, after Israeli forces attacked a Syrian military position in retaliation for a rocket from Syria hitting the Golan Heights.
The rocket was believed to be stray fire from fighting between the Syrian government forces and rebels.
In a statement quoted by the Syrian news agency SANA, the Syrian army said the Israeli attack destroyed one cannon and damaged another.
The statement warned Israeli against the repercussions of another such attack, and also reaffirmed its commitment to its fight against terrorist jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front, which it referred to as “Israel’s tools”.
The fighting in Syria has continuously spilled over to the Golan Heights, and the Israel Air Force has retaliated several times.
The Syrian army’s claim that jihadist groups in Syria are Israeli proxies is not new. Syria’s President, Bashar Al-Assad, recently claimed there is “no contradiction” between Israel and jihadist groups such as ISIS.
“Any terrorist who holds a machine gun and started killing and destroying in Syria was supported by Israel, either indirectly through the logistical support on the frontier, or sometimes by direct intervention by Israel against Syria in different areas in Syria,” he said in an interview.
Two years ago, Assad’s adviser claimed that Israel was sending fighters to help the rebels fighting to oust Assad.
For four days since July 25, the Syrian army has been continuously firing artillery batteries – moved close to Israel’s defense lines on the Golan border – in a manner that comes dangerously close to provoking an Israeli response. This carefully orchestrated Syrian campaign goes on around the clock.
It is the first time in the six years of the Syrian war that Bashar Assad has ventured to come near to provoking Israel. But now he appears to be emboldened by his Russian ally.
The IDF is holding its fire for the moment. But Israeli military and government leaders know that the time is near for the IDF to be forced to hit back, especially since it is becoming evident that the Syrian army’s steps ae backed by Russia.
DEBKAfile’s military sources provide details of the Syrian steps:
- The Syrian army’s 90th and 121nd battalions have been firing their artillery batteries non-stop across a 10km band along the Golan border from Hamadia, north of Quneitra, up to a point facing the Israeli village of Eyn Zivan. (See attacked map).
This means that the Syrian army has seized the center of buffer zone between Israel and Syria and made it a firing zone.
- This artillery fire fans out across a radius that comes a few meters short of the Israeli border and the IDF troops stationed there. It then recedes to a distance of 500 to 600 meters and sweeps across the outposts and bases of the Syrian rebel forces believed to be in touch with Israel or in receipt of Israeli medical aid.
- The new Syrian attack appears to hold a message for Jerusalem: For six years, you supported the rebels against the Assad regime in southern Syria. That’s now over. If you continue, you will come face to face with Syrian fire.
- Damascus is also cautioning those rebels: For years, you fought us with Israel at your backs. But no longer. Watch us bring you under direct artillery fire, while the IDF sits on its hands.
- On July 26, Russian media published an article revealing that Russia had delivered to the Syrian Air Force, advanced SU-24M2 front-line bombers, which is designed for attack on frontlines of battle. Israeli officials were unpleasantly taken aback by the news. Up until now, the Russians and Syrians refrained from deploying air strength in South Syria near the Israeli border. Now the Syrian air force has the means to do so.
- DEBKAfile military sources report that the SU-24M2, following recent upgrades and modifications in Russian factories, is now capable of dropping smart bombs – ballistic bombs with a guidance system on their tails that enable them to hit targets with precision.This guidance system does not rely on US GPS satellites but rather the equivalent Russian GLONASS system which is linked to a network of 21 Russian satellites and partially encrypted for military usages.
In addition, the SU-24M2 is equipped with a system that projects the information the pilot needs (flight details and battle details) on the plane’s windshield (head-up display) and on the pilot’s visor.
- The Russians delivered to the Syrians two of these sophisticated airplanes this week, out of 10 that they will supply soon.
The IDF has concluded that it is only a matter of time before these planes appear in Southern Syria and so generate a new and highly combustible situation on Israel’s northern and northeastern borders.
The Russians are colluding with Damascus to inform Israel that it will no longer be allowed by either to continue backing the rebel forces in southern Syria or sustain the buffer zone which they man.
Israel may pay dear if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot decide to continue to abstain from hitting back at the Syrian fire which is aimed every few hours at the vicinity of IDF posts or the impending arrival of Russian bombers. The price in store would be the weakening of the IDF’s hold on the Golan border.
Israeli warplanes on Wednesday reportedly struck a building controlled by the Syrian government near the city of Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
According to Arabic media reports, the planes bombed a target in the city of Medinat al-Ba’ath, near the border of the demilitarized zone in Syria.
It wasn’t immediately clear what purpose the building served, or whether it was occupied at the time of the strike. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that the planes targeted Hezbollah operatives in the area.
The IDF Spokesman’s Unit said it didn’t comment on reports regarding Israeli strikes in Syria.
Israel has maintained an official policy of nonintervention in the Syrian civil war, which has wracked the country for over five years and left over 250,000 dead and millions displaced. Israeli officials have made clear that Israel would act to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining sophisticated weaponry from Syria or Iran.
The IDF has also retaliated when fighting by the various rebel groups and government forces struck Israel.
Times Of Israel
On June 16, the IDF announced the start of a three-day military exercise the following day.
As it began after 17:00pm on June 17, an unidentified UMV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) crossed in from Syria and flew over the Israeli Golan and Upper Galilee for nearly an hour. The small craft had every opportunity to photograph and collect intelligence information on most of the IDF units taking part in the drill and their intelligence resources and beam them back to its operators in Syria.
The IDF hastened to state that the aircraft had been locked into Air Force surveillance all this time and was targeted by three missiles, two Patriot anti-air projectiles and an air-to-air missile of undisclosed type.
They all missed.
This is not surprising: using such missiles to down a UMV is like directing a heavy missile destroyer to swat a small shark. Its chances of hitting a tiny target are close to zero.
DEBKAfile’s military sources say that the use of missiles seems to indicate that someone in the IDF chain of command decided, after losing hope of hitting the intruder, to produce a big bang to frighten it off.
It has to be assumed that the Russian radar systems deployed in Syria spotted and tracked the episode. The Russians must have taken note of the UMV crossing from Syria into Israeli air space and the length of time it was free to linger over the Upper Galilee. They were certainly aware that three Israeli missiles failed to hit their target.
As far as we know, none of the Russian-Israeli coordination mechanisms in place for coordinating their aerial activity over Syria was activated. The Russian command did not warn Israel that an alien UMV was on course to cross its border or offer to help capture it once it returned to Syria.
In other words, the Russians must have known what was going on, as well as the identity of the drone, but kept quiet and let it happen.
This raises the possibility that the UMV was Russian.
This likelihood must be taken into account in the light of another event: just two days earlier, a covert agreement on aerial cooperation between the US and Russia in the Syrian arena was concluded in Moscow by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources analysis commented then: “Direct intelligence cooperation in Syria between the two powers will make the Israeli intelligence system in Syria redundant and weaken its sources and standing.” The UMV episode Sunday demonstrates that the Moscow deal has gone into effect. It is now up to Israel’s military chiefs to take the new reality on board and start adapting.
Armored bulldozers accompanied by Israeli army force entered the tank , on Tuesday 12.7, to the zone between Israeli and Syrian border, and began the construction of fortifications and anti-tank ditches, inside Syria.
This is the first time all six years of war in Syria, an IDF force ‘ ‘to openly cross the border and entered into Syrian territory. the IDF operates within 300 to 500 meters deep in the buffer zone.
force met no resistance.
even Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus was silent and did not published any information or protest against Israel’s military power operation. the only factor that joy against this Israeli action, is a small rebel group in southern Syria published a notice sent information about army movements inside the buffer zone.
military sources of DEBKAfile reported that the Israeli force continues its activities on Wednesday, 13.7, Ein Zivan in the front of the field in Israel and Contra Syrian territory.
buffer zone defined by the armistice agreements with Syria in 1974, a demilitarized zone under the control of UNDOF force’s military and civil administration UNDOF Syria. Both sides of the separation zone set two military forces dilution strips, each about ten miles wide. The first strip is allowed for each side to hold about 75 tanks, and -6000 soldiers. The second strip is allowed to hold 450 tanks. It was also determined not to hold anti-aircraft missiles within 25 kilometers of the separation lines.
The agreement stipulated that Syrian citizens who were forced to leave their homes in the buffer zone will be able to return to them. Syria pledged to resettle the Quneitra, and pledged not to allow terrorist activities or terrorist infiltrations in the area of the Golan Heights. These two undertakings were given orally as a liability to the Americans.
However, the civil war in Syria has brought many changes in the past two years in the buffer zone. Force UNDOF UNDOF was gone, leaving behind a vacuum that eventually filled by army soldiers or rebels Syrians. A large portion of the buffer zone remained empty after both Israel and Syria were trying to keep appearances, that the ceasefire and agreements signed before 42 still alive and well. It seems that the Syrian deafening silence on Israel’s military operation, also stems from the desire of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to try and coordinate response the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah against the Israeli army movements, and that Assad is waiting for a response from Tehran on the issue. military sources ofDEBKAfile reported that while the movement of ground forces Israelis within the buffer zone was felt on Tuesday air traffic Israeli unusual over Lebanon and Syria. Israel air Force planes have raised the alert level ahead of the 10th anniversary Lebanon War occurred in the week. the fact that Hezbollah is not only celebrated the event it is always called ‘a great victory’, but did not mention it in one word, raised the level of concern in the IDF from the unexpected action of Hezbollah.
Army responds to repeated mortar fire from Strip, while Palestinian terror group evacuates schools, offices in territory
e Israel Defense Forces hit back Wednesday afternoon at repeated mortar fire from the Gaza Strip, as the Hamas terror group that controls the coastal territory began evacuating facilities in anticipation of a tough Israeli response to almost 24 hours of cross-border tensions.
The army returned fire at suspected militant outposts after four separate mortar attacks in less than a day. In the most recent attack, a shell fired from Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon exploded inside Israel adjacent to the border fence, near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. No injuries or damage were reported.
The IDF said it opened fire at “suspicious positions” in Shejaiya following the shelling. The Wednesday afternoon mortar attack was the fourth from Gaza in less than 24 hours.
According to Palestinian reports, the escalating situation prompted Hamas to evacuate two schools and their headquarters in Gaza City over fears of IDF retaliatory strikes. The IDF, meanwhile, declared the area around Nahal Oz a closed military zone, Channel 10 reported.
Earlier Wednesday, mortar shells exploded near Israeli soldiersoperating along the southern part of the Israel-Gaza border. Hours later, IDF troops stationed along the northern section of the border reported hearing two loud explosions, which were also believed to be the result of mortar fire.
There were no injuries or damage in either incident.
Following both attacks, the IDF responded with tank fire at positions inside Shejaiya. One tank shell hit an observation post manned by the military wing of Hamas. No casualties were reported though the outpost was said to be damaged.
Tensions began when Israeli soldiers along the Strip’s northern border came under attack Tuesday.
Gunfire from across the border struck an IDF vehicle operating nearby. No injuries were reported, but heavy engineering machinery was damaged by the volley, the army said.
Palestinian media in Gaza reported intense gunfire from Israeli forces near Kibbutz Nahal Oz immediately afterwards.
The flare-up came just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured a southern section of the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday afternoon.
During his tour of the border with Gaza, Netanyahu told troops that the past two years, since the end of Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas, have been the quietest in many.
During the 50-day conflict, the Gaza-based terror organization lobbed hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli cities and towns. Mortars proved to be one of the deadliest means of attack, claiming the lives of 10 IDF soldiers in a single week, three Israeli civilians and a Thai national.
Although the area has been relatively calm since the end of the 2014 fighting, sporadic rocket fire and attacks on IDF patrols have often originated in areas adjacent to the border fence. In recent weeks, tensions along the border have increased, with Israeli officials warning of a possible uptick in violence.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the recent attacks, although Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri warned Israel not to “test the patience of the Palestinian resistance.”
Masri told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an on Wednesday that Israel would “pay a heavy price” for a “flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement.”
The Times of Israel
Following a number of cross-border shooting attacks from the Gaza Strip and reprisals from the IDF on Wednesday, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad warned Israel that there would be consequences for the “escalation.”
Mushir al-Masri, a senior Hamas leader, said: “The Israeli escalation is a new development and the Palestinian resistance is conducting consultations to decide how to react to it.”
In addition, he called on the parties supervising the truce between Israel and Hamas to bear responsibility for “the violations of the Zionist enemy”, emphasizing that “the enemy should not try Hamas’s patience.”
Islamic Jihad’s Spokesman, Daud Shihab, stated that “Israel has not ceased its hostilities against the Palestinian people since the ceasefire was agreed on in 2014.”
“There are continued onslaughts and infiltrations in both Gaza and the West Bank and in other locations in Palestine,” Shihab added.
The comments came after the IDF shelled Hamas positions in response to four mortar attacks directed against soldiers near the border fence.
According to social media posts from Gaza, some schools and Hamas security positions near the border were evacuated in light of the tensions.
The shooting incidents began hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to the Gaza border on Tuesday, declaring that the last two years since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge have been the calmest years since Hamas took over the coastal enclave in 2007.
Israel embarked on a P. R. campaign to play down the extent of the threat which surfaced in one day in the discovery of Hamas tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa, and the suicide bombing of Jerusalem bus No. 12 on April 18, with 20 people injured. The police initially claimed for example that the explosion was due to a technical problem with the engine. But the two developments actually represented a sharp and serious escalation of the Palestinian wave of terror against Israel.
Neither of the operations was carried out by “lone wolves” but rather by large terror networks. The secret tunnel discovered in the Gaza border area was built by the Hamas military wing, the Izaddin al-Qassam brigades, while the suicide bombing in Jerusalem was carried out by the Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, specifically its operatives in the Bethlehem area.
Each of these terror networks poses a different challenge to Israel.
In Gaza, the Hamas political leadership is no longer in contact with the heads of its military wing. Neither the top commanders nor the regional commanders of the brigades obey any Hamas political body. They only heed three sources:
1. The Hamas military command framework headed by Mohammad Deif and Marwan Issa.
2. Iranian or Hizballah intelligence services, which maintain contacts with them and often provide funds or weapons.
3. The ISIS affiliate in the Sinai, with which the Hamas military wing maintains operational ties.
There is an equally serious problem in Judea and Samaria. Over the past few weeks, the Hamas terror networks have started to make contact with sleeper cells from Fatah’s Tanzim paramilitary force that have the knowledge, ability, means and experience for major terrorist attacks against Israel, such as the Jerusalem bus bombing.
This dormant wing of Mohammad Abbas’s Fatah has began to show signs of life and willingness to return to the path of terror.
These contacts began immediately after publication of a letter from jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti to members of the force that called on them to start coordinating their operations against Israel with Hamas. Nobody has bothered to explain how a senior terrorist jailed in a high-security Israeli prison succeeded in smuggling such a letter out.
The link between part of the Tanzim and the Hamas terror networks is no less dangerous than the tunnel discovered near Kibbutz Sufa, and it presages an escalation of terror operations in the future.
The only way to prevent a major deterioration of the security situation is to strike targets of the Izzadin al-Qassam brigades. There is no need to launch a total war against Hamas or to occupy Gaza.
But instead of responding as needed, Israel’s government and security establishment have released pictures of digging equipment that has finally succeeded in locating a single Hamas infiltration tunnel out of the many that exist, and claimed that those responsible for the Jerusalem bombing have yet to be identified. At the same time, senior officials and IDF officers continue to assert that Hamas is not seeking escalation.
Unfortunately, this can only mean a resurgence of the wave of terror.