Gaza Moves to the Syrian Border

Let it be clear: The rocket fire toward Israel yesterday was carried out by the Iranians and Hizbullah. It is certainly possible that they used small local organizations to carry it out, but they are the ones behind it. Second, this is not the planned revenge for the blow they sustained last week.

The four rockets fired yesterday from Syria to the Golan Heights opened a new stage in the conflict between Israel and Iran and Hizbullah. The latter are still busy preparing their revenge, and in the meantime, they are going to use attrition. During this time they will try to turn Israel’s northern border into something like the Gaza border. They will fire at it, but not regularly, and the residents in the region will live in constant uncertainly. The army has to be on constant alert. And, therefore, Israel will have to decide, quickly, how it will stop this “trickle” of missiles in the north, whose objective is purely to wear Israel out on another front.

Yesterday’s rockets were fired from very close to the site where the Iranians and Hizbullah operatives were killed last week. That is meant to send Israel a message: “You wanted to prevent us from operating from here and you failed.” The rocket fire was very measured. Each of the four rockets had a different target. One was supposed to hit a popular tourist attraction in the Golan. Another one’s goal was to shut down the Hermon ski slopes, and the final two were aimed at traffic arteries. Basically, they are trying to tell the residents of the Golan that they are now like the residents of the Gaza Belt region.

Iran and Hizbullah will continue in this fashion, and the decision-makers in Yerushalayim are facing a very complex situation.

The government does not want to lead to an escalation. Interestingly, the Iranians, Syria and Hizbullah don’t want it either. But each one of the sides has to take the gamble and walk the fine line, with the hope that the other side will prevent that escalation. And this is where the danger lies: Even when no one wants an escalation it can come anyway.

Iran can’t let things pass with no response. Israel will not restrain itself from responding to more rocket fire. This friction, which is basically like burning matches being tossed into a barrel of explosives, is very dangerous and can lead to an explosion far quicker than anyone thinks.

Israel has deployed large numbers of forces on the northern border and is on the highest alert. This is very costly and cannot be sustained for months or years. The Iranians and Hizbullah are also employing psychological warfare. Each day they send civilians, or fighters without uniforms, right near the fence, which puts Israel on the highest alert and sends civilians into bomb shelters. Traffic on arteries along the border has been blocked as well.

Yesterday’s rockets were 107mm katyushas. One small missile can cause a lot of damage when it hits a target. B’chasdei Shamayim, all four missiles yesterday did not hit their targets, precluding the need to deploy Iron Dome anti-missile batteries. Although Iron Dome triggers the sirens when they detect launches, when it becomes clear that the missiles are headed for open areas, they do not fire their interceptor missiles.

It’s very possible that the use of relatively small missiles is intended to send a message to Israel: We want to respond, to take revenge, but not to drag the whole region into war. Israel got the message, but the question remains: Where is the red line? How much can it absorb? And at which point does it respond to the fire from the other side of the border?

Miraculously, there were no casualties yesterday, which is why the response could be low key. Israel fired 20 shells, but mostly aimed for open areas, save for a few that hit the actual rocket launcher.

But the situation up north is not good. The local economy is being affected. Tourists are leaving. Farmers are leaving their produce on the trees and on the ground, and the IDF is investing millions of dollars in flying all kinds of planes at all hours of the day, which can be heard flying northward.

The Iranians don’t want war now. They are far too busy trying to reach an agreement on their nuclear weapons, so that they can get rid of the crippling sanctions. It’s also important to them that Assad survives and they know that in war, Israel will make sure he is toppled.

Hizbullah are the last ones who want war. After losing 1,300 fighters in Syria, they are preoccupied with the civil war there and in conflicts on their other borders.

War is not something anyone wants. Therefore we can expect that these little flare-ups on the border will continue, but at low intensity. However, past experience teaches that these conflicts begin on a low flame and can quickly turn into a full-fledged conflagration.