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Is an Israel-Syria Conflict on the Horizon?

IDF troops look into Syria (Photo: flickr/IDF)

This week has seen mortar shells from Syria prompting Israeli airstrikes - with Syria then firing missiles at the IAF aircraft. With this back-and-forth in mind, The Jerusalem Post's Yossi Melman analyzes the possible conflict, noting the Syrian military's growing confidence:

The IDF’s responses were measured, and were mainly intended to send a message to the regime – the IDF said so expressly in its statements – that no matter what the source of the errant fire was, whether it came from the Syrian Army or the rebels, Israel sees the Assad regime as responsible and the sovereign power in charge of its territory.

Until last night’s events, the Syrian Army did not respond.

In the most recent episode, it responded forcefully, backed up by an official statement in which it took responsibility.

However, the IDF denied the Syrian Army spokesman’s claim that the missiles downed an Israeli warplane and drone, and said that the missiles had not even come close to the IAF aircraft.

But it is clear that the missiles were intended to send a signal to Israel that this was not accidental fire ordered by a junior commander in charge of an anti-aircraft battery, but rather, the result of orders from the senior command.

The incident bears witness to the growing confidence of Assad’s army, which is succeeding – for the most part because of Russian help – to expand its control in Syria (which is still only some 30 percent of the territory), and to cement the regime’s place as the opposition weakens and ISIS is at the beginning of the end.

As the regime’s army intensifies its assault on the rebels, including in the Golan Heights not far from Israel’s border, the chances for more errant shells landing in Israeli territory increase. Two additional shells fell on Tuesday afternoon.

The IDF is expected to respond, likely with increasing levels of force. If Assad’s army decides to retaliate like it did last night, the chances for an escalation of tensions and descent into violence on what has until now been a relatively quiet Golan Heights border also increase, despite the fact that most of the sides involved – Israel, the Assad regime, Russia, and some of the rebel groups – have no interest in heating up the border and sparking a military conflict.

Tags: Syria

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