Israel Gearing Up for Worst-Case ‘Day After’ Scenarios Against ISIS, Hezbollah if Russia-Brokered Syria Deal Materializes
by Ruthie Blum
Israel is gearing up for the “day after” an agreement is reached in Syria between the Assad regime and rebel forces, by preparing for worst-case scenarios, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Sunday.
According to the report, attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to broker such a deal are on the verge of bearing fruit, something that Israel is planning for both politically and militarily. Where the latter is concerned, the IDF is taking into account that after the two warring sides in Syria achieve understandings, jihadists will turn their attention to and aim their fire at the Israeli border. This possibility was behind a series of drills conducted by the IDF’s Golani Brigade along the Syrian and Lebanese borders last week, to train for combat against ISIS terrorists.
Though, as Walla reported, the IDF defines the Syrian border as “stable” – despite a number of incidents of stray fire and mortar-landings over the past few weeks – the Northern Command is bracing itself for a new reality. Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi thus ordered drills to prepare for potential cross-border attacks and infiltrations. In such events, he said, the IDF would retaliate with force.
The IDF was satisfied with the ability of the troops participating in the drill to meet the challenge. One aspect of the exercise was based on the assessment that most of the civilians on the other side of the borders are not terrorists, with only a small number of jihadis operating in their midst. An entire battalion was deployed in the exercise to pose as Syrian civilians, whom the soldiers in the field were to keep isolated from fire on either side.
One way this was done was through announcements shouted by Arabic-speaking officers into megaphones, to warn Syrian civilians of imminent IDF attacks against rebels. This was one move aimed at fostering a good relationship with the villagers living near the border fence — many of whom are already predisposed to Israel, after being treated in Israeli hospitals for wounds sustained in the crossfire of the war.
Meanwhile, assessments in the IDF are that an inter-Syrian agreement will lead not only to fighting against rebel jihadis, but with Iran’s proxy, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah, which supports the Assad regime. In such an event, the IDF believes, the need to maneuver deeper in Lebanon will be significantly greater than it was during Israel’s war against Hezbollah 10 years ago.
As The Algemeiner reported on Thursday, two major joint exercises, conducted by the US Marine Corps and the IDF, were undertaken recently. One called CAYA Green (for “come as you are when you get the green light”) simulated a raid on enemy shores. The other, Noble Shirley 2016, held in southern Israel, practiced counter-terrorism techniques against ISIS.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they had agreed on “concrete steps” to achieve a truce in Syria – following the complete breakdown of the partial ceasefire they brokered in February.
The bloody civil war in Syria has been going on since 2011. Putin backs the Assad regime. Washington is aiming to receive greater cooperation with Moscow in fighting the terrorist rebel groups, in exchange for Putin’s promise to rein in Assad.