Israeli Strike on Syria: Seizing an Opportunity

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A damaged military vehicle that belonged to the Syrian Army in Homs on 30 January 2013. (Photo: Yazan Homsy - Reuters)

By: Hassan Illeik, Mohamad Bdeir

Published Friday, February 1, 2013

For five years, Israel kept harping on about a “red line” that must never be crossed on its northern front. That “red line” was the transport of “balance-tipping” weapons from the Syrian army to Hezbollah. Israel insinuated that it was ready to conduct a pre-emptive military campaign at any time to thwart such a transfer. On Wednesday, 30 January 2013, Israel decided that this line had been crossed.

Regardless of the nature of the target struck by Israeli fighter jets, it is evident that Tel Aviv carried out an aerial aggression deep inside Syrian territory linked to the capabilities of the Resistance.

This was confirmed by leaks from Haaretz about a modern air defense system, which could create “a change in the regional balance of power,” in the event it reached Hezbollah. The Syrian leadership also substantiated this interpretation, announcing that the targeted facility was connected to “raising the capacity for resistance and defense.”

It’s also in line with a statement by Yair Golan, head of the Israeli Northern Command, published in Israel Hayom on 6 April 2012: “What Hezbollah possesses today is haunting us. According to what we know, everything except for chemical weapons, no matter how advanced, has been transferred to Hezbollah.”

If that were the case, then what lies behind Israel’s aggression on Syria last Wednesday? It is highly likely that what Israel destroyed was just one of the many prototypes of the defense system obtained by Syria. Yet one single piece of military equipment is not justification enough for this type of adventurous operation.

There seems to be only one variable that could explain the timing of the Israeli strike: the war raging inside Syria. Based on Golan’s statement, we can assume that Israel had been previously aware of strategic weapons transfers to Hezbollah. This leads to another assumption: Israel did not have the courage to intercept such operations when they occurred previously. The reason is simple: the fear of a Syrian reaction at a time when Damascus still enjoyed stability and, thus, was capable of performing its strategic role in the Resistance axis, efficiently and forcefully.

On the surface, the attack is an exploitation of Syria’s inability to reproduce earlier threats to impose a “red line,” despite the fact that these had been crossed. So Israel employed the Hezbollah angle to justify getting involved in the current confrontation against the Assad regime. Only under this pretext would it be able to legitimize its aggression on an international level.

Israel’s direct involvement in the Syrian arena can only be understood in the following light. First, all former Israeli (and non-Israeli) bets on the imminent fall of the Assad regime were shattered. Second, the situation in the field in the last few weeks tipped in favor of the regime. Third, the international community retreated from the idea of military intervention.

Israeli calculations are betting that this attack will help them score several points. The first is to stop planned transports of weapons that were free-flowing in the past. The second is to attempt to establish new “red lines” with regard to what the Syrian regime is allowed to have in terms of strategic weapon supplies. The third is to show that the fears of the outcome of external intervention is exaggerated as evidenced by the lack of a Syrian military reaction to the Israeli bombing. The fourth is providing the armed opposition on the ground with a push by distracting the Syrian army with a new front. This is in addition to its moral embarrassment by showing the regime as “determined against its people and reticent towards Israel.”

This embarrassment will encompass the whole resistance axis, which seemed to have guessed wrongly that Israel would not get openly involved in Syria.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


I agree with the above commentators. Israel can and does strike Syria (pre and post revolution) pretty much whenever it wants. It did flyovers past Assad's palace that were so close that they broke windows. That was just to show him who is boss. And that was way before the Spring.
I understand that you like/love the Butcher, but this is too rich for words.

"Israel did not have the courage to intercept such operations when they occurred previously. The reason is simple: the fear of a Syrian reaction at a time when Damascus still enjoyed stability and, thus, was capable of performing its strategic role in the Resistance axis, efficiently and forcefully."

Fear of a Syrian reaction?
You mean like in 2007 when Israel bombed Syria and the Syrian regime didn't respond? Or in 2008 when Israel likely carried out the assassination of Mughnieh in the heart of the Syrian capital and the Syrian regime didn't respond? Or the assassination of Mohammad Suleiman in Tartous in 2008 when the Syrian regime didn't respond?

I have to agree with the other gentleman - Nahed Hattar - that now there is no excuse for Syrian inaction, because the country is already ravaged and the economy largely in shambles. But that's not the reason for Syrian inaction, neither before or after March 2011, I'm afraid.

What I'd like to know from the mumanaists is this: you clearly don't believe in the strength of your own cause if you think that Assad is the best the resistance axis can get: a murdering, blundering, blustering, arrogant prick whose regime conspires to sow sectarian strife in northern Lebanon by blowing up iftars and killing Sunni clerics (and then hires a fool like Samaha to carry it out.) Seriously. Like a woman who won't leave her abusive broke husband, because he didn't leave her when she had a hard time losing weight after child birth and once punched the leering mailman.

So the author is claiming that the Syrians can't respond to the Israeli attack because of the domestic situation? Certainly you must be on the Syrian payroll, or have deep affection for Baathist Syria. Israel has attacked Syria and Syrian positions too many times in the past. What responses has the Ba'ath regime had besides blubbering bluster? Give me a break. al-Akhbar is no longer readable as an independent and objective voice.

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