A radical faction of Syrian rebels has brought the nation’s conflict to the border region with Israel, a British newspaper reported on Wednesday, against the backdrop of multiple incidents of Syrian fire landing in Israeli territory. The Daily Telegraph, citing Israeli military sources, said at least 200 rebels had moved into the demilitarized region between the countries.
Per the armistice following 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Syria, the Syrian military is not allowed to act within roughly six miles of the border with Israel. The Daily Telegraph cited an Israeli source who noted the rebels are using the demilitarized zone to their advantage.
This effectively brings the fight closer to the Israeli border, thereby heating up a region that has been largely quiet for decades. Furthermore, Israeli sources said the rebels in the area were part of a radical Islamist group whose origins are mostly from outside Syria, and whom the article said have expressed a desire to attack Israel after defeating the Syrian authorities.
While the article did not say if the group was in any way behind the two occasions this week in which Syrian shells landed in Israel, the situation does bring some clarity to the sudden string of such incidents. While cross-border fire has become a real concern for Syrian neighbors Turkey and Lebanon, Israel had been kept out of the conflict. Following the Syrian shelling on both Sunday and Monday, Israel returned fire.
Israeli leaders have repeated the refrain of self-defense. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments released by his office, said on Wednesday, “We are closely monitoring what is happening on the other side of the border with Syria. We are determined to defend our territory and our border. We have made this clear to the other side. Security is the foundation for everything that we are doing.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres, in comments released by his office on Tuesday, again expressed his disgust at the brutality of the Syrian regime on the country’s opposition. However, he clarified Israel is not entering the Syrian conflict and only seeks to protect itself.
“As a human being I deeply regret the bloodshed, children being killed by their own government is unacceptable, there are moral principles,” said Peres. “We are not involved in what’s going on in Syria and we have no intention to intervene in what is a terrible and sad story. But if they try to shoot at us we shall defend ourselves.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, November 14, 2012)