Tension in Northern Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -

ANALYSIS

A tense atmosphere prevailed in the communities of northern Israel on Sunday due to fears of a serious flare-up with Syria after the Israel Air Force strike near Damascus.

Northern residents near the border turned on Sunday to the local councils to ascertain if there had been any change ordered in security preparations and if any precautions were necessary.

A special defense posture was noticeable in Kiryat Shemoneh, where the local population has extensive experience in detecting military escalation.

Mayor Nissim Malka said that as of the end of last week it was already possible to hear the roar of Israeli warplanes over Lebanon.

“We know that over the weekend there was no aircraft activity above us,” he said. “But this time we heard something exceptional. The noise from the planes flying over told us what was going on.”

Malka said that in conversations with military sources, he was told that there was no change in instructions for civilians in the region and that business should be conducted as usual.

Nevertheless, on Sunday the mayor decided not to take any chances, and he arrived at the municipal war room to verify that everyone knows the protocols in the event that something does happen.

“We are familiar with these kinds of events. One missile would be enough to ignite the whole region, and we prefer not to take chances,” Malka said.

At this stage, however, it was decided that it would be premature to open the bomb shelters in the city.

On the Golan Heights, the atmosphere was calm.

“We are keeping up with the news, like everybody else, but it’s calm,” Shefi Mor, director of Merom Golan Tours, told Israeli media, adding that people there are not afraid of an escalation despite recent exchanges of fire between Israeli and Syrian forces near the border.

“The Syrians are weak, and they are not interested in opening another front. Even when their nuclear reactor was hit three years ago, they chose not to respond.”

Regarding the flight of tourists from the area, Mor conceded that it has tourism companies worried.

He explained, “One has to understand that there is a danger, but it creates concern for me as a businessman, just the same as the concern that I might have over not maintaining our standards of service for our customers. But in the meantime, it doesn’t look like Israelis will be deterred from enjoying the beautiful summer here,” Mor said.

Mayor of Haifa Yona Yahav convened a special meeting to assess the situation in the wake of increased tension on the northern border. Yahav ordered that the city’s war room be placed on a higher alert.

“The experience we accumulated in the Second Lebanon War [2006] taught us that the municipality is the governmental body that everyone turns to in an emergency,” Yahav said.

“In order to meet the challenges we may have to face, we established a new war room that will enable security forces to act effectively even under extreme conditions.