UPDATE: Within hours of originally publishing this post, Arab media reported that Israeli war planes attacked two military targets near Damascus. This would make at least the sixth Israeli invasion of Syrian territorial sovereignty to attack military-security targets. Nicholas Blanford seems to have summed up the situation pretty well:
“Usually we have the attack, there are accusations from the one side, the Israelis say nothing, within two or three days there are leaks in the American or Israeli press and that’s when we get to find out what they tried to hit,” he told Al Arabiya News.
Blanford said previous reported strikes had allegedly been against what the Israelis described as “potential game-changing weapons” such as air defense systems, advanced anti-aircraft missiles, anti-ship missiles or long-range surface-to-surface missiles…
“It’s still too soon to say and we will have to wait for the inevitable leaks to come out in the next few days but I think we can safely assume that whatever they hit [on Sunday] will probably fall into these categories,” Blanford said.
For much of the length of the Syrian rebellion, news media have claimed that Israel has maintained neutrality between Pres. Assad and the rebels. Israel officially makes the same claim. But this is not true and has never been true. At least five times the IAF has attacked Syrian government positions, in several cases in an attempt to destroy advanced Russian weapons being shipped to Hezbollah, Assad’s ally. A few weeks ago, Israel shot down a Syrian plane it claimed had strayed yards into Israeli territory after it had returned to Syria, another breach of Syrian territorial sovereignty.
In the past few days, Lebanese media reports the army fired on Israeli drones inside Lebanese airspace in the Bekaa Valley. By one account, the drones were monitoring a Syrian airport on behalf of rebels forces who were trying to take it from loyalist troops.
Now, the UN peacekeeping force on the Israel-Syria border, which has been under threat from Syria rebels, reports on the increasing level of explicit support offered by the Israeli military to the rebels. Some time ago, I reported about a FoxNews story which filmed Israeli commandos inside Syria, returning from operation in support of Golani Syrian Druze forces opposed to Assad.
The latest report shows not only that Israel has accepted wounded rebel fighters for medical treatment inside Israel, it is accepting them from those who are the most radical Islamists among them: the al-Nusra Front:
In the [Israeli hospital in Safed], they’re careful to present in a positive light the work to save the lives of those [Syrians] who need it: children, female non-combatants, refugees and even fighters from the Islamist al-Nusra Front.
Though some local Israelis resent the intensive and expensive medical treatment offered the Syrians, even going so far as to say “they would slaughter us if they had the chance, it’s in their blood,” reasons of state prevail in this matter. In fact, treating Syrians who are fresh from the battle zone is a terrific means of picking up intelligence and recruiting Israeli agents. The Shin Bet already does this by blackmailing Palestinians to spy in return for offering superior Israeli medical treatment for family members. This is one of the many odious ways in which it recruits some of the agents who may end up executed someday by Hamas after being abandoned to their fates by their Israeli handlers.
Israel has even established (Hebrew source) a Camp Ashraf-style Syrian rebel encampment just inside Israeli territory on the border (watch Israeli TV video):
UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel. The Syrians also warned that if the UN would not evacuate the tent camp, the Syrian army would view it as a legitimate target.
The video featured above has this to say:
Now, pictures are coming from a refugee camp established next to the border which hasn’t brought about any response from Israel who, in the meantime enables the continuing existence of the complex.
This would be a huge red flag to Assad, indicating Israel was prepared to escalate its intervention by permitting rebels to operate openly inside Israel and engaging in cross border sabotage-terror operations. Clearly, it’s in Israel’s interest to create maximum instability inside Syria in order to harm the interests not just of Assad, but his chief allies Iran and Hezbollah. Despite the fact that Sunni Islamist rebels are enemies of Israel and Zionism, in Israel’s current policy trajectory, the enemy of its enemy is its friend. However, one must remember that in the Middle East, one’s current ally can quickly turn into one’s worst nightmare: witness the Afghani mujahadeen alliance with the CIA under in the Reagan presidency; and Israel’s own covert efforts to found both Hamas and Hezbollah to counter the impact of the secularist Fatah in Palestine and Lebanon.
Whatever any Israeli may say about this, do not tell me this is a generous humanitarian gesture on Israel’s part. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s a move calculated purely for intelligence and political advantage.