As Syria’s blood-soaked Assad regime approaches its demise, Israel’s northern border is getting greater focus in light of the growing scope of activity on the Syrian side by jihadist rebel forces.
A Ynet article today [“Fearing terror attacks, IDF boosts forces on Syrian border“] says the IDF is mainly concerned at this stage with the danger of shooting attacks from the Syrian side on the contract workers putting up a sophisticated border fence that includes sensitive new alarm systems incorporating a fiber that sounds an alarm at the slightest touch. But it’s clear that the far greater concern is with how dangerous the border is likely to become when a new Syrian jihadist regime is in place, which seems inevitable.
The Ynet report says Syrian rebels released a video clip yesterday (Saturday) showing their men firing weapons close to the Israeli-Syrian border and within sight of a U.N. sign indicating the area’s demilitarized status. Another scene captures verbal threats from one of the rebels:
“We are now in front of the occupied Golan, the blessed land sold by Hafez Assad… For 40 years, not a single gunshot has been fired on this land. For 40 years, not a single gunshot has been fired towards Israel…” [Ynet]
The U.N. has had a contingent of ‘peacekeepers’ in the area since 1971. But the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that was established by Security Council resolution has seen prouder days. Twenty-one soldiers from the Filipino contingent of UNDOF peacekeepers were kidnapped by Syrian rebels earlier this week and were handed over to Jordan’s Foreign Minister yesterday.
Ensuring that such embarrassments are less likely to happen in the future, U.N. management in New York has changed the ground rules, as Times of Israel reports:
U.N. peacekeepers on Syrian border halt night patrols: International teams fear more kidnappings, violence; Israel beefs up border security | Times of Israel | March 9, 2013 | Peacekeepers from the UN’s UNDOF mission have ceased patrolling the Israel-Syria Golan Heights border area at night, for fear of being kidnapped or hurt in the violence in the area, Israeli TV reported on Friday night… The news came as the UN continued efforts to extricate 21 members of UNDOF from the Philippines who have been held captive since being kidnapped Wednesday by rebels from a group calling itself the Martyrs of the Yarmouk Brigades. Their convoy was stopped on the outskirts of Jamlah, a Golan village less than a mile from the Israeli border. Eight more UN peacekeepers fled to Israel Friday, abandoning their posts to escape the fighting between the rebel groups and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad… The IDF has urged the remaining three UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) member-nations — Austria, India and the Philippines — not to abandon the 40-year mission, after Japan and Canada withdrew their forces in recent months, and Croatia announced plans to do so, a Channel 2 report said.
The reduced patrols in the buffer zone, which extends for some 50 miles along the border, are already enabling al-Qaeda forces among the Syrian rebels to take greater control of the Syrian side of the Israeli border, and Israel has accelerated work to bolster security at the fence, Channel 10 reported Friday night. Israel has also deployed troops from the standing army to replace the reservists who usually guard the border, the report added. [Times of Israel]
In case anyone fears an outbreak of do-nothing-ness on the part of the UNDOF men, their website assures us differently:
March 5, 2013 – UNDOF assisted again after more than one year in Apple Crossing in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross. An eight-year-tradition continued when a range of ICRC trucks transferred apples again from A-Gate to B-Side… Within the next three months 18.000 tons of apples like Golden Delicious and Starking Delicious will be transferred. With assistance of UNDOF Military Police in coordination and traffic management, all apple boxes were carefully delivered to B-Side. The ICRC and UNDOF peacekeepers were well prepared to assist in this important procedure. The first apple crossing in UNDOF’s history took place in the year 2005, when 4.000 tons were transferred. It happened then after 31 years of no trading activities between Syria and Israel… [UNDOF website]
Visit This Ongoing War.