This Saturday, Syrian government authorities accused Israel of assassinating Midhat Saleh, a former member of Syria’s parliament, near the Golan Heights. This, in addition to a number of other provocations in the past week are an Israeli attempt to see what they can get away with, without sparking war.
Midhat Saleh (54-years old) was reportedly killed by Israeli gunfire, in the Syrian village of Ain al-Tinhah, which overlooks Majdal Shams on the Israeli side of the unofficial border. Midhat Saleh was held in an Israeli prison for 12 years, until 1998, when he travelled to Syria. He later became a member of Syrian parliament, serving there until 2005, when he was appointed to the Golan Heights portfolio by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
According to Syrian State TV, UAV’s were reportedly spotted in the area, along with Israeli helicopters, at the time of the assassination by gunfire. It is not yet clear as to whether Saleh was killed by sniper fire from across the border or from an aircraft. However, both of these acts of aggression would violate international law and constitute acts of war against Syria.
Israel also launched airstrikes on Thursday night, targeting sites in Syria’s Palmyra, killing a Syrian soldier and injuring three others. According to Syrian State TV, Israeli fighter jets launched their attack from Syria’s southern al-Tanf region. Al-Tanf is a pocket of Syria occupied by US-backed mercenary forces along the border with Jordan. Last Friday night, Israeli fighter jets also targeted Syria’s T-4 airbase, in Homs, injuring 6 Syrian soldiers.
In response to the latest airstrike, targeting Syrian air defense, the command of the Syria Allies Operations Room vowed a response in a statement issued this Thursday:
“The command of the operations room has taken the decision to respond to this attack in retaliation for the lives of the martyrs and the blood of the wounded, and the response will be very harsh”.
This also comes following a Statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, pledging to expand Israel’s illegal settler population in Golan Heights four-fold. He wishes to expand the existing 30 settlements, building new settlements and infrastructure, bringing the settler population in the illegally occupied territory to 100,000. If achieved, this would mean that the territory recognized by the UN as belonging rightfully to Syria would witness an Israeli settler surge, effectively outnumbering the remaining 25,000 native Syrian Druze population in the area. In response, Syrian government officials threatened to launch a campaign to retake the occupied territory.
As with the thousands of Israeli strikes, incursions, and shootings of the past, the latest assassination was a clear violation of international law; and unfortunately this was very predictable. In fact, I predicted in my previous article that this very situation would arise. Israel has struck Syria as expected, targeted its air defenses as expected, and is now pushing the barrier to see how far it can go without receiving any reply from Syria.
For Israel, it makes complete sense for them to test the waters with Syria militarily and to expand their settler population. What they are doing is evidently illegal and not supported by the International Community, but they do not receive any punishment for their actions, nor condemnation from the Western World. For them to go on the offensive like this is completely predictable.
However, in the case of Syria, although their respectable levels of self-control seem to go above and beyond what international law would demand, it is completely counterproductive in the real world. The Israeli government seemingly has no regard for the law, the United Nations, human rights groups, or even the threats of some of their allies. The only way to stop Israel is for Syria to return fire, every time Israel strikes Syria, tit for tat, exactly like Lebanese Hezbollah.
Even Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, has now established a deterrence to Israeli aggression. Since their weapons and tactics have advanced, Israel rarely chooses to initiate airstrikes on a regular basis.
Now that Israel has decided to aggress three-fold in the Golan Heights, with assassinations and airstrikes inside Syria proper as well, the Syrian response has to be big in order to deter Israel. The response, from a strategic perspective, should be for Syria to strike military targets in the Golan and beyond. If Israel strikes Damascus, Syria strikes Tel Aviv. If this equation becomes the new normal, then Israel will not aggress unless its mission is absolutely essential to it. It is truly sad that this type of posture is required, but it is seemingly the only reasonable stance within the rampantly lawless world that has been created by the likes of the Israeli government.