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March 21, 2017 12:27 pm

Israel Must Prepare for Deterioration of Security Situation in North, Retired IDF General Says After String of Syria Incidents

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A look into southern Syria from Israel. Photo: Masterpjz9 via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel must be prepared for a deterioration of the security situation along its northern border, a retired IDF general said this week, according to the Hebrew news site nrg.

Zvika Fogel, a former chief of staff of the IDF Southern Command, was speaking in the wake of a string of recent reported incidents in Syria — which apparently began last week with an IAF strike on a Hezbollah-bound weapons shipment and the interception of a Syrian anti-aircraft missile fired at the planes.

“You have to understand that the north is full of different entities, each with their own interests,” Fogel said. “Therefore, it is very easy for things to deteriorate.”

While neither Israel, Russia, Syria or Iran want to see such a scenario play out, Fogel noted, that does not mean it could not happen.

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Hezbollah and ISIS, according to Fogel, have “nothing to lose” by provoking a direct military clash between Israel on one side and Syria and Iran on the other. Furthermore, Fogel warned, Hezbollah could coordinate a full-scale war against Israel with Gaza-based Hamas.

The Russians, Fogel said, are “working very hard with Israel, Iran and especially [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to prevent an escalation. This is their supreme interest.”

Oren Nahari — Walla’s foreign news editor — said on Tuesday that Russia has started to signal to Israel that it will no longer be able to operate freely in Syria as it sees fit. On Friday, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow was summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry to provide an explanation for the IAF’s latest reported action in Syria.

“Russia is making its intentions clear — protecting the [Assad] regime and, by implication, its allies,” Nahari wrote.

Meanwhile, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said at a cultural event in Beersheba this weekend, “Russia, by and large, is a stabilizing factor [in Syria]…I’ve known [President Vladimir] Putin from the first day he arrived at the Kremlin as [then-President Boris] Yeltsin’s prime minister. He’s the friendliest person to Israel who has ever sat in the Kremlin.”

However, Barak went on to say, “Israel does not have any real ways to pressure Putin. Israel can make clear its positions, explain its interests and ask him to show understanding, and in many cases he has done so. The less we talk about these understandings [publicly], the deeper they will be.”

Earlier this month, ahead of a meeting between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow, Sarah Fainberg — a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv with expertise on Russia — told The Algemeiner that Israel was seeking to become “an integral part in the talks about the future redesign of Syria.”

“Israel needs to enter that conversation because the threat to Israel is not only a few missiles crossing the border into the Golan Heights, but the establishment of a permanent ‘Hezbollah-stan’ on its northeastern border,” she said.

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