Syria will respond to Sunday night's strikes on its bases, going on past experience, but will do so through proxies, and not directly via its army. Previous responses to IDF strikes were carried out by armed groups organized by Hezbollah - some Druze and others Palestinian – operating directly under the auspices of the military regime headed by President Bashar Assad, albeit without direct orders.
One such group fired rockets at the Hermon a few months ago, and it is likely that the response this time will be also in the Golan Heights. This will require IDF preparation, and for the army to intensify its intelligence efforts.
All signs point to the fact that Sunday's attack in the Golan Heights, in which an Israeli teen was killed, was perpetrated by one of the armed groups or militias operating under the auspices of the Assad regime.
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Intelligence information suggests that the missile that killed 13-year-old Mohammed Karakara didn't come from the Syrian army or its soldiers, but that the attackers were located in an area controlled in part by the Syrian army and in part by rebels, often falling from the hands of one to the other.
It is still unclear what exactly hit the truck in which the teenager and his father were travelling, killing Mohammed and wounding his father. Judging by the size, shape and location of the hole in the border fence, the attack could have been carried out by a variety of weapons.
Investigators suspect that the culprit was most likely a new model of Russian anti-tank weaponry, simply known as the Kornet EM. The EM rockets have several types of different warheads, each with its own specialty, including one suitable for penetrating the thick border fence and hitting a target on the opposite side.
One model’s warhead contains seven kilograms of TNT and is capable of reaching a target some 10 kilometers away, and, like all similar missiles, is laser-guided. This missile's greatest advantage however, and the biggest reason to suspect that it was used in this case, is its advanced tracking system.
The system is automatic and hardly needs to be aimed. The attacker would need only to put the target in the crosshairs of their scope and fire. The missile knows to guide itself to the desired destination and explode on impact.
The new model of the Kornet is also suspect. It is far more advanced and travels much faster than its predecessor, it was widely used by Hezbollah in attacks on IDF troops during the IDF occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in 2000. It claimed many Israeli lives during this period, and has the ability to penetrate the border fence with Syria, which is in fact a wall of iron bars.
This type of arms indicates some form of a connection to the Syrian army, which received a shipment of brand new Kornet missiles from the Russians, and it is known that some of the missiles have been given to Hezbollah. That was the case with the older model, and there seems to be no reason to believe it is not so with the newer version.
Plenty of evidence supports the conclusion that this was in fact the weapon of choice on Sunday, but in either case, these weapons both suggest some sort of ties to the Syrian army, which receives such missiles from Russia.
But what's really important is that the attack in the Golan, like the rocket fire on a post on Mount Hermon a few weeks ago, indicate that several renegade groups are active in the area, some of whom are supported by Hezbollah while others have back channels connecting them to Palestinian groups.
These rogue actors on the Syrian stage are working alongside Assad and the government but they don't take orders from any authority, giving them free rein to try to provoke Israel into attacking rebel positions across the border.
This could explain why the the attack came from just next to a post currently controlled by one of the rebel groups. It seems that someone wants Israel to blame the rebels and incite the IDF to act against them.
The border with Syria, which used to be very quiet is a cause for major tension today due to the regime's inability to control its partners, fighting its war against armed Sunni terrorist groups active in the Golan Heights.
It is true that radical Islamists forces, including al-Qaeda terrorists, have already begun encroaching on the Golan border between Israel and Syria, but their efforts are still focused on battling the Damascus regime and unifying rebels in Syria and Iraq under a single Islamist caliphate. They have no interest in picking a fight with Israel. The moderate Islamists and the secular Free Syrian Army enjoy humanitarian aid from Israel (namely, in the form of a field hospital set up by the IDF on along the border) and it seems illogical that they would chose to attack Israel in such a way.
Thus Israel has understandably directed the blame towards the Syrian regime and its military, which controls as small sliver of land in the Golan that from the western side leads to the coveted Quneitra crossing and on the eastern side leads to the road to Damascus. Israel points to the Syrian regime not because its military launched the attack, but because those aiding the ailing regime did, and Damascus still reigns sovereign in the area.
No to war
Complex, indeed. But Jerusalem and the IDF must make sure Israel’s response is proportional and accurate, so that the intended message passes but without heating up an already volatile area. Israel is keen not to open a third front, which could theoretically deteriorate into a full-fledged war.
Israel’s goal is to focus on the operation to return the three kidnapped teens, and we can expect a surge in covert intelligence operations in the coming days.
The military operation has already reached its zenith, and the IDF claim a serious blow has been dealt to Hamas’ civilian infrastructure of charities. More over, they say that there is no point in going after small targets and risk an additional escalation in the West Bank and even Gaza. So the current orientation is to attempt to calm tensions without giving up on either the kidnapped boys or deterrence in the region.