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Friday, April 12, 2013

IDF troops operating inside Syrian side of the Golan

If you're an Israeli, you probably suspected this or even heard rumors about it for some time now, but as the person who sent this to me noted, 'how did this get past the censor'? Two reports - here and here - indicate that IDF troops are operating on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. And no, we're not talking about the field hospital that the IDF set up on the border for wounded Syrians last week. This is from the second link, which discusses an operation back in March.
On March 8, while 21 UN observers were being held captive by Syrian rebels, another group of observers was running for their lives. Caught up in fighting between the Syrian army and rebels, they fled down a steep mountain. There, they were helped by Israeli Defense Forces soldiers who entered the Syrian Golan Heights to rescue them. The incident marked the most significant instance of Israeli soldiers crossing into the Syrian Golan Heights since 1974.

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Syrian rebels had captured the Syrian army’s military post located on top of a mountain “for a few hours” before the Syrian army went to reclaim it. A bloody battle followed.
“There were UN troops very close to this battle who had to leave their posts," [IDF Brig. Gen. Gal] Hirsch said. They escaped by “going down the cliff and climbing by foot to the Israeli border.”
He said, “They were in a very bad situation,” and that IDF soldiers had to cross into the buffer zone to rescue the UN soldiers in the Syrian Golan Heights.

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“Today, half of the Syrian Golan Heights is captured by the rebels, and not held by the Syrian army anymore,” said Hirsch, emphasizing Israel’s extreme concern about the situation on its northern border. Calling the area “ungoverned,” he described it as controlled “by many fundamentalists who are just running to this area in order to capture bases and build their infrastructure to use it later against Israel.” Israel is now building a high-tech fence system on its border with Syria to stop infiltrators. Yet everyone agrees that this is not the answer to all of the potential dangers.
“The main problem in Syria,” Hirsch said, “is its huge, huge store of weapons.” Syria has become “one of the biggest warehouses for weapons in the world, including weapons of mass destruction.” He added, “That’s a huge threat for us because we don’t know who will capture the WMDs and the advanced weapons that Russia supplied over the years to Syria, and who will be able to use them against Israel or, via the terror organizations already here, on the rest of the world in terror activities.”
Israel and other countries are concerned about the intentions of the Syrian rebels, some of who are affiliated with al-Qaeda. One group in particular, Jabat Al Nusra — a Syrian jihadist group following hardline Salafist ideology working throughout Syria — is operating increasingly closer to the Israeli border. Their attack in late January 2013 on a Syrian military intelligence unit was just 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the Israeli-Syrian border.
From the Israeli-Syrian border looking down into the valley in Syria, one can see Jabat al-Nusra-occupied villages in the distance. Powerful binoculars show deserted streets and half-built or dilapidated houses, vacant for years, which now serve as seats of operations for the Syrian rebels. Jabat al-Nusra is said to number between 5,000 and 8,000, and include many foreigners. Facebook and YouTube pages that document the names and origins of dead Jabat al-Nusra fighters show that the top three countries being recruited from are Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Libya, particularly from the Benghazi area.
Israeli government sources said that despite al-Nusra having set up just 14 months ago, it has carried out more attacks and inflicted more damage on the Syrian regime than any other opposition organization.
The article goes on to note that Hezbullah may also want to use the Golan as a base of operations, since Lebanon has had it with the consequences of Hezbullah operating against Israel from its territory.

This is from the first article, which is from this week.
Reports that Israelis may be operating, even in non-combat capacities, in an enemy state can be compared to information indicating that American military personnel are operating in North Korea — if North Korea lay on the American border, and if it was consumed by a civil war in which extremist elements were involved.
Yet it appears that Israeli security forces have entered Syrian territory to identify wounded Syrians and administer basic medical care across the border.
A senior Israeli source told GlobalPost that wounded Syrian rebels who have received medical care in Israel “are transported across the border only once they are positively identified and receive initial emergency medical treatment while still on the other side,” meaning on Syrian soil.
This indicates a much higher level of activity by Israel in rebel-held lands than has previously been acknowledged. It also is a sign that Israel is willing to put some of its own personnel in significant peril in order to retain some semblance of order at the national boundary line.
Late last month, after 11 Syrian citizens were treated in Israeli hospitals, AFP reported that the Israeli army set up a field hospital on the Israeli-Syrian border to provide emergency care on-site. The army spokesman has refused to comment on the report.
Standing on the northern Golan Heights, a white tent-like structure is visible within Israeli lines, on the grounds of military base 105.
“I think behind the scenes there are steps being taken to prepare. We haven’t set up a field hospital for thousands. But there is some preparation, more ambulances, more doctors, more medical equipment. We’re ready. It’s only logical,” Ret. Col. Eshkol Shokron, who commanded the Golan Division until his retirement last August, told GlobalPost.

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Whether there is an established base of medical operations on the border itself, or whether Israelis are operating just across the frontier, “the State of Israel doesn’t need to take sides in the war,” Shokron said.
He added that there is reluctance in Israel to address the matter head on because of concerns that wounded Syrians, both civilians and combatants, could flood the Israeli border.
“If we advertise that there’s a hospital here, the whole world will come. If they understand there’s an option here, and no one will shoot at them, that the army is moral and will take care of them, of course it is their best option.”
Ret. Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, an expert on Israeli military strategy, says the significance of any Israeli presence across the Syrian lines would be tactical, not strategic, and that he doubts there exists a “permanent Israeli presence” across the border.
“It may mean there are ties or communication developing with some of the saner, more secular rebel groups,” he said. “Dialogue like this is essential to cope with new security demands. Israelis may go in and out as the situation demands. But I’d say its farfetched to believe that any Israelis are sitting there in a permanent capacity.”
I don't believe that Israelis are sitting there in a permanent capacity. But I believe that there is likely an attempt to hook up with elements among the rebels who are non-Islamist and anti-Assad, and that the IDF hopes those elements will provide intelligence information down the road.

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1 Comments:

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

I would be VERY VERY suspect of anything Noga Tarnopolsky writes about Israel. She is effectively, a Hamas spokesperson.

 

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