Syria's Failure To Respond Signals Israel Can Strike Without Worries

Assad's Hands Are Tied With Battle for Regime Survival

Watchful Eye: United Nations peacekeepers keep wary eye on Israel-Lebanon border.
getty images
Watchful Eye: United Nations peacekeepers keep wary eye on Israel-Lebanon border.

By JTA

Published May 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Twice in three days, Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace and fired on suspected weapons caches bound for Hezbollah – and nothing has happened in response.

Some experts are predicting that will continue to be the case following airstrikes near Damascus on Friday and Sunday that are widely believed to be the work of the Israel Defense Forces. According to reports, the strikes targeted shipments of long-range, Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles capable of striking deep into Israel.

Israel hasn’t commented on the strikes, but the IDF has moved two Iron Dome missile defense batteries to its northern border and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his departure to China for several hours to convene his security cabinet. Meanwhile, Syria’s foreign minister told CNN on Sunday that the strikes amounted to a “declaration of war.”

But such gestures, analysts say, are merely symbolic. Torn by a civil war now in its third year, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is too beleaguered to fight back. And Hezbollah, the Lebanese party considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, is considered too preoccupied propping up its Syrian patron to respond.

“Today Israel can act with impunity in Syria,” said Hillel Frisch, an expert on Arab politics at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “The [Syrian] air force isn’t functioning and there’s no defense system. It’s very exposed and weak.”

Syria’s civil war augurs a major strategic shift for Israel. The two countries have technically have been in a state of war since the Yom Kippur War ended in 1973. And though the border since then has been largely quiet, Syria was Israel’s only neighbor to pose a threat of conventional attack.

But the weakening of the Syrian regime has raised the frightening prospect that its stocks of chemical weapons may fall into the hands of Hezbollah. Israeli officials have said for months that they would take action should Syria transport unconventional weapons to Hezbollah. In January, Israel bombed a Syrian weapons convoy near the Syria-Lebanon border. In 2007, Israel allegedly bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor.

Syria and Hezbollah didn’t respond to those attacks, either. But Hezbollah expert Eyal Zisser said Israel still needs to remain cautious.

“Don’t play with your luck,” said Zisser, also from the Begin-Sadat Center. “There might be a response. Eventually something will happen. Everybody is taking precautions.”

Shlomo Brom, a senior research associate at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said the attack sent a message that Israel will act unilaterally if deemed necessary – in this case, the transfer of long-range weaponry to Hezbollah.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.