On Tuesday, another serious shooting incident on the northern border occurred. For the first time since the outbreak of civil war in Syria, four Israeli soldiers were wounded on the Golan, one of them seriously.
The incident did not surprise anyone. It was expected that the situation would deteriorate in this direction. But even after the IDF’s swift retaliation, it was clear that the Israeli leadership, both civilian and military, are caught in a difficult dilemma.
The general rule has been that the IDF will respond to anything that appears to be fire directed at Israeli territory.
A large explosive device like the one detonated on the border Tuesday cannot be interpreted as spillover from firefights between rebel forces and the Syrian army.
This was undoubtedly a deliberate attempt to wound, kill or possibly kidnap Israeli soldiers.
The problem is, however, that Israel does not know who exactly was behind it.
The roadside bomb incident, near Majdal Shams, is not the first, and probably won’t be the last. The most reasonable assumption is that one of the many terrorist groups currently operating in Syria has been responsible for most of the recent attacks.
But against whom does one retaliate in such a situation? In Syria today there are approximately 200 rebel organizations.
Many of them have an interest in harming Israel, or taking actions that will embroil the Syrian government in conflict with Israel.
So against whom does Israel retaliate for the bomb that wounded four of its soldiers, one of them a senior officer? Israel chooses in these incidents the way that is easiest, acting against Hizbullah when an incident occurs on the Lebanese border (as in the case of the roadside bomb against the jeep late last week on Har Dov), or against the Syrian army, as in the latest incident.
But Yerushalayim was not satisfied with a few artillery shells and two Tammuz missiles. A stern message was sent to Damascus, warning that if the central Syrian government does not intervene to halt these incidents, it will be held responsible, and it will pay a price.
However, deep down Israeli decision-makers know that Assad’s army has nearly lost all control in the area bordering Israel, and in most places terrorist groups have established themselves, with members from al-Qaida as well as jihad volunteers from all over the world.
The situation has been described as “a lawless vacuum.” A dilemma for Israel for now and especially for the future.