THE LEVANT EXCLUSIVE – By Alwan Amin Eddine* –
Israel was not aware enough regarding its military strike targeting some Hezbollah leaders in “Al-Amal Farms”, the Syrian Qunaitra’s area on Jan 18, 2015. It thought that Hezbollah is busy in Syria, and the Syrian army is exhausted and spread all over the territory, and Iran’s main concern is focused on the accomplishment of the final agreement regarding its nuclear program in order to lift up sanctions and regain back its frozen money.
What makes this true, the calm situation that dominating the “Golan Heights”. No evidence shows that the Syrian army would fight again to regain this occupied territory, and the Syrian leaders will choose the diplomatic channels instead or, at least, will keep up the “status quo” scenario, but things seem to be on the opposite side.
Israel has experienced the stability of Hezbollah through many mutual engagements, notably the war of 2006 , and it knows that the Shiite group will revenge for sure. These events forced the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to travel to China and Russia in order to use their influences with Hezbollah, but these visits were fruitless and Hezbollah revenged.
Hezbollah hit back with a “tactical and complicated” operation targeting a commander in the Israeli Army’s elite unit (Golani); The attack was at the same time of the Israeli aggression in Qunaitra (approx 11:30 a.m); and on a same number of vehicles (two). This operation was followed by “Statement No. 1” which made Israel fear of more operations.
A few days ago, the Syrian army announced a comprehensive military operation in the Southern Syrian, the triad of Damascus- Qunaitra – Daraa, which was named “Martyrs of Quneitra”. The Syrian army, supported by Hezbollah troops, launched a “pre-emptive” military action to evacuate this area from the terrorists groups and prevent Israel from establishing a “buffer zone” which may be connected with the Lebanese territories.
The military operation in South Syria can be analyzed as:
1. An additional revenge of Hezbollah against “Qunaitra’s operation”, and aims to cut any connection among the terrorists groups in Syria and Lebanon;
2. The Syrian action aims to prevent any military operation from the terrorists against Damascus. In an exclusive interview, a specialist in Geopolitics has told me that there is a “historical fear” comes from Daraa’s region towards the Syrian capital. Also, the Syrian army is trying to “clean” the border with Jordan which represents a transit point for the terrorists groups to enter Syria. These developments put Jordan in front of many challenges represented by making extra effort to face both ISIS and Al-Nusra’s Front. The Syrian government accused Jordan of training and supervising these groups through a main control room located in Amman;
3. An Iranian response to the Israeli assassination of the Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allah Daddy, killed in Qunaitra’s raid.
Many analysts believe that the “Martyrs of Quneitra’s” assault showed the Syrian army’s high capabilities. This army shows the ability not only to defend but also to attack. They also believe that it is the first step in liberating the Syrian occupied territories of the “Golan Heights”, occupied by Israel since 1967.
In accordance, Ehud Yaari, an Israeli political analyst, said that the armed groups (especially Al-Nusra’s Front) can’t make any achievements on the ground to stop the progress of the Syrian army and Hezbollah. Furthermore, he saw the danger lies in the presence of Hezbollah on the north, and what is happening now gets back to mind the battle of the Syrian city of Qusayr on the Lebanese – Syrian borders in April – May 2013.
According to Yaari, the real problem lies to the Syrian success of expelling these extremist groups from the Israeli – Syrian borders and replacing them by Hezbollah troops. This will be the greatest threat for Israel.
In addition, the Israeli daily Haaretz, noted on February 12, 2015, that each military success claimed by the Syrian Army in Idlib and Aleppo (North Syria), has been confronted by a response in the south, particularly in Daraa. The main goal of the Syrian army, at this stage, is to regain control on the center of Daraa – Damascus’ axis, and to cut the link between those extremist groups in Hermon’s Mountain and Deraa.
Last but not least, two things were not taken in the Israeli consideration:
1. The Israeli raid in “Al-Amal Farms” against Hezbollah members has unified the fronts on the Northern border.
2. The announcement of the Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, about breaking the “rules of engagement”, and retaining the right to respond to any Israeli action against “any member” of Hezbollah killed by Israelis, in the right place and time.
Today, Israel is stuck between two options:
1. A direct intervention through a wide military invasion which seems unlikely to happen, especially within the circumstances inside Israel itself and the “deterrent balance” made by Hezbollah;
2. To accept the presence of Syrian – Hezbollah troops on the north border after losing the bets made on the terrorist groups to protect this borderline.
Hence, Israel still has only a single choice represented by the return again to the disengagement forces of the United Nations, in the Syrian “Golan Highs”, in order to keep the confrontations away from the border.
*Alwan Amin Eddine is a leading analyst and researcher at Beirut Center For Middle East Studies, specializing in International Relations.