Syrian civil war spillover into Israel

Following last month’s news several Syrian fighters were brought into Israel for medical treatment, we hear that several mortars and projectiles from Syria have landed in Israel in recent days, thankfully causing no injuries, but causing great concern amongst the security establishment that the Syrian civil war will spill over into Israel itself.

Three Syrian mortars landed near moshav Ramat Magshimim in the southern Golan Heights on Saturday afternoon, causing no injuries or damage.

The incident is the deepest and southernmost penetration of Syrian fire into Israeli territory in years. Based on initial assessments, IDF officials believed it to be a case of errant fire, according to a military spokesman who commented on condition of anonymity. Officials were not immediately certain of how many mortars had actually landed.

Israel promptly filed a complaint with the UN observer force stationed on the Israeli-Syrian border.

Area residents reported hearing explosions at approximately 2 p.m. local time, and smoke was seen from as far as the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar.

IDF forces, including sappers, were sent in to comb the vicinity of Ramat Magshimim.

On Wednesday, a tank shell from Syria landed in the central Golan community of Alonei Habashan, after several months of relative quiet on the Israeli side of the border.

No damage was reported in that incident, either. The shell, believed to have been an errant shot from a battle between Syrian government forces and rebels, landed in an open area and did not explode. Sappers later disarmed it.

“The IDF tracked a shell from the Syrian army to us,” Golan Regional Council deputy head Uri Kellner told a local radio station. “This the third or fourth time this has bled into our area, and it cannot continue.”

These events, when added to the claim that the rebels control the entire border area with the exception of the Quneitra border crossing, paint an extremely worrying picture of the future in the region.

Inscription on the Jobar Synagogue, near Damascus, Syria (photo credit: screen capture YouTube)

Meanwhile, Syrian troops were reported to have destroyed one of the most ancient synagogues in the world, the Jobar synagogue in Damascus (video at the link):

The Jobar Synagogue, located in a suburb of Damascus, is approximately 2,000 years old, and is said to have been built on top of a cave where the prophet Elijah concealed himself from persecution.

Syrian rebel sources reported that regime troops had fired mortars at the building. The video, uploaded by the Syrian opposition’s military council, appears to show that portions of the building and roof were blown off, with debris seen on the ground in front of the synagogue. The condition of the inside of the building is unclear from the video.

An inscription in English reads, “Shrine and synagogue of prophet Eliahou Hanabi since 720 B.C.,” although the actual date of founding is disputed. One of the earliest mentions of the synagogue is in the Talmud, which states that Rabbi Rafram bar Pappa prayed there.

Whether this shelling was by design or in the fog of war remains to be seen, but it is a huge blow for Jewish history and for world heritage.

With his position becoming increasingly precarious, one would think that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would avoid threatening Israel. One would be wrong. Assad told the Sunday Times that Syria would retaliate for Israel’s strike against a Syrian arms convoy in January:

“Retaliation does not mean missile for missile or bullet for bullet. Our own way does not have to be announced,” the Syrian president said in a televised interview with The Sunday Times.

Assad told the British newspaper Saturday night that Syria had always retaliated for Israeli actions, “but we retaliated in our own way, and only the Israelis know what we mean.”

Assad did make one good point about Western aid for the rebels:

In the interview, the Syrian president warned of grave consequences if the West armed the rebels, directly or indirectly. “You know the crime is not only about the victim and the criminal but also the accomplice providing support, whether it is moral or logistical support,” he said.

“Syria lies at the fault line geographically, politically, socially and ideologically. So playing with this fault line will have serious repercussions all over the Middle East. Any intervention will not make things better. It will only make them worse. Europe and the United States and others are going to pay the price sooner or later with the instability in this region. They do not foresee it.”

Assad leveled harsh criticism at Britain, saying that instead of pushing for peace talks, David Cameron’s “naive, confused, unrealistic” government was trying to end an EU arms embargo so that the rebels could be supplied with weapons.

This, he said, would fan the flames of war at a time when an al-Qaeda-backed element of the uprising, Jabhat al-Nusra, was already “killing, beheading, torturing and preventing children from going to school.”

The West must remember and take note that the rebels are not liberal, Western-oriented democracy seekers. They are Islamists and al-Qaida sympathisers.

The war in Syria really is a case of “may both sides lose”.  If the fighting encroaches any further into Israel, both Syria and Israel will face a war that neither side wants.

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