Will Israel’s Attack on Syria Trigger a Retaliation from Assad and Hezbollah?
Israel conducted an airstrike in the outskirts of Damascus, deep into Syria’s territory on Wednesday, January 30. The attack is in violation of Syria’s sovereignty, and it was confirmed by an anonymous source in the United States government. There are conflicting reports concerning the target of the strike. According to the US source, it was a military convoy on its way to Lebanon with anti-aircraft weapons; but according to the Syrian army, the target of the Israeli attack was a “weapons research center.” On Thursday, Israel’s government remained silent on the attack, neither denying nor confirming it. Israel’s actions, however, could have some grave consequences in expanding Syria’s civil war into a regional conflict involving NATO and at first Lebanon, but also potentially Iraq. Could this be a way for the Jewish state to provoke Assad, and Iran’s ally Hezbollah, into a retaliation to justify another invasion of Lebanon?
Reactions of Hezbollah and Russia
Russia issued a statement on Thursday, arguing that any Israeli air strikes on Syria would be unacceptable according to the United Nations Charter. “If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification,” said the statement from Russia’s foreign ministry.
Hezbollah condemned Israel’s air strike in much stronger terms, calling it a “barbaric aggression” and pledging full solidarity with Syria’s army and people. Lebanon’s based Hezbollah said in a statement on Thursday that the attack of the previous day revealed the Jewish state’s “motives towards unrest in Syria over the past two years, and the criminal thinking aimed at destroying Syria and its army and eliminating its pivotal resistance.”
Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon warned that “Damascus has the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation.” The military in Lebanon, which shares borders with both Syria and Israel, said that the presence of Israeli fighter jets in Lebanese airspace has increased sharply since last week. Israel’s violation of Lebanon’s airspace occurs on an almost daily basis.
Israel defines more red lines
Even though the strike was not discussed officially, it made the headlines in the Israeli press on Thursday, as gas masks where distributed in the Golan Heights to conveniently feed people’s paranoia. Commentators indicated that Israel would never allow the transfer of sophisticated weapons systems to Hezbollah, an ally of Syria and Iran that is considered by both Israel and the United States to be a terrorist organization. At the instigation of the all-powerful Jewish lobbying group AIPAC, the US Congress passed a resolution on January 1, urging the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Likud party Member of Parliament Tzani Hanegbi, known to be close to reelected Prime Minister Netanyahu used another red-line metaphor to justify Israel’s illegal action in Syria. “The best thing that Israel has been hoping for during a long time is that the West will take control of these weapons. But the world is not ready to take such a decision as it did in Libya or Iraq, so Israel finds itself facing a dilemma which we alone can resolve. Israel has always said that if sophisticated weapons coming from Iran, North Korea, and Russia fell into the hands of Hezbollah, it would cross a red line,” said Hanegbi to Israel’s army radio station. This statement echoes another made by Netanyahu at the UN a couple of months ago concerning Iran’s nuclear program, as if Israel is now putting all of his neighbors on notice by defining red lines that cannot be crossed.
Israeli bombing in the morning, humanitarian aid in the afternoon
According to the latest numbers from the UN, since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in early 2011, the civil war in Syria has claimed 60,000 lives, made 700,000 refugees in neighboring countries and left about four million internal refugees. Some of the countries that helped to create this atrocious situation by arming and financing Assad’s opposition, are now stepping in for “humanitarian” help. First, help wreck Syria, then give candy bars and bottled water to starving kids. In the lead of the wreckers/future humanitarian helpers of Syria are the anti-Assad Islamists’ main backers: the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait each pledged $300 million in aid to Syria. Exactly one day before Israel’s attack on Syria, US president Obama pledged $150 million on behalf of the United States in a playbook motion of humanitarian imperialism.
One has to wonder if the strike was approved by the White House or if Israel just informed the Obama administration about the fait accomplit. It is possible, especially considering Netanyahu’s personality, that the second option is the right one. After all, the timing seems right: Netanyahu’s Likud was recently reelected, and the Obama administration is going through personnel changes at the State and Defense Departments. This is likely to be a replay of the attack by Israel on Gaza in November: a way to say nobody can stop us and also a way to bait Hezbollah and Iran into a retaliation.
Editor’s Note: Photographs one, two, three, five and six by Pan African News Wire.