Israel claimed Syria’s long-running civil war had effectively come to an end Thursday and predicted the Golan Heights frontier between the two countries would be much quieter over the coming months.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has sought to restore central rule in several southwestern areas of the country in recent weeks, with a particular focus on reclaiming Golan Heights — an area of strategic and political significance for both Damascus and Jerusalem.
“From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Thursday.
On Monday, Assad regained control of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time in seven years. This came shortly after Israel said it had shot down a Syrian warplane, claiming it had breached a Golan buffer zone and warned Iranian forces backing Assad against deploying there.
Israel had initially seized the Golan Heights frontier in the closing stages of the Six Day War in 1967 and later annexed the rocky area in a move not recognized internationally.
‘Not looking for friction’
The war in Syria has changed dramatically over the last seven years, rapidly morphing into much more than a battle between those who are simply for and against Syria’s Assad.
Several countries and groups are involved — each with its own agenda while collectively making the situation extremely complex. Key supporters of Syria’s administration include Russia and Iran, while the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia all back government rebels.
“We are not looking for friction, but we will know how to respond to any provocation and any challenge,” Lieberman added.
The United Nations estimates that almost 12 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war in March 2011, with the majority seeking refuge in neighboring countries or within Syria itself.
The pre-war population of Syria was roughly around 22 million people, meaning so far more than half of the country has been displaced.