Israel Prepares for Worst-Case Scenario in Syria

Article Summary
Though the continuing turmoil in Syria has yet to affect Israel, the Israel Defense Forces are preparing for the possibility that chaos will spill over the northern border, Alex Fishman reports.

The IDF Northern Command is preparing for the day when the situation on the Israeli-Syrian border gets out of control. Following the bloody events shaking Israel's neighbor on the northeast, the IDF is not taking any chances. "The Syrians must realize that response on the part of Israel will not necessarily be in scale," senior military sources say.

One of the possible scenarios is a situation were Assad's regime loses control over its citizens living deep in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights, which may trigger a new wave of terror attacks from across the border–not unlike the anarchy currently rampant in the expanses of the Sinai. Another scenario the IDF is preparing for is a situation were Assad's regime reaches a dead end and is pushed to launch a military move in the Golan Heights in an attempt to rally Syrian and pan-Arab public opinion around the flag of a military confrontation with Israel.

The IDF Northern Command has already modified its procedures on the Golan Heights frontier in anticipation of potential future developments. Combat drills and border patrols have been stepped up, and plans have been prepared for clashes liable to erupt on the border, among other steps.

For the time being, there are no clear signs of an imminent disintegration of Assad's regime in the areas bordering Israel. It seems, however, that deterrence in the border areas is weakening. For instance, in the past months, mines have been thrown on several occasions from the Syrian side on the IDF intrusion-tracking dirt road with the aim of trapping passing military patrol vehicles. The conduct of Syrian civilians in the border areas has also become more daring recently: They are getting closer to the border now, and openly spy on the other side of it. And Syrian civilians are more and more often noticed breaking into Syrian Army posts and pilfering equipment and food–phenomena never seen before.

"The weakening of deterrence on the part of the Syrian security agencies is liable to give way in no time and without notice to utter chaos," the senior military sources warn, noting at the same time that, as yet, the Syrian Army deployment in the Golan Heights shows no signs of collapse. In fact, the daily routine is being carried on by the Syrian Army. It keeps entrenching along the border, and, as far as is known, there have been no cases of desertion or manifest disobedience among the Syrian corps stationed on the Golan Heights frontier.

Deep in Syria, the situation is quite different. Rebels there–already numbering several thousand, only some of whom are deserters from the Syrian Army–are waging a guerilla war against that army. They attack army posts and barracks and ambush military convoys to get ammunition and equipment. On one occasion, rebel forces engaged in battle around a missile base of the Syrian Army. This may indicate the rebels aim to obtain strategic weapons as well. Such weapons are liable to ultimately pass from the central regime to dubious elements.

What's more, the rebels are kidnapping Syrian soldiers–including senior officers ranking as high as major and lieutenant-colonel–and setting them free in return for arms. According to reports reaching Israel, some of the Syrian officers have been beaten to death.

The current situation in the Syrian Army is far from being simple. All military maneuvers have been stopped and the Syrian regime finds it more and more difficult to recruit youths to the army. It appears that, notwithstanding mandatory conscription in Syria, evasion of military service is becoming more widespread.

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