For the first time since the Syrian civil war began six years ago, the IDF is reportedly operating with tanks and heavy bulldozers inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating Israel from Syria in the Golan Heights indicating a dangerous end to the long period of relative quiet on the country’s northern border.
Sputnik News, a multi-language news site, reported the IDF was operating in the region between Quneitra in Syria and Ein Zivan in Israel. This area was designated in 1974 as a demilitarized zone officially under control of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the Syrian civilian administration, according to the 1974 armistice agreement. The zone is 10 kilometers deep on each side and no ground-to-air missiles may be deployed inside a 25km radius from the DMZ.
The heavy equipment seen approaching the area was preparing a militarized zone dividing the Israeli and Syrian Golan borders, according to Debka, an Israeli military intelligence website based in Jerusalem. The machinery is there to build a line of fortifications and anti-tank trenches 300-500 meters inside the DMZ. No altercations were reported.
Debka also reported “unusual Israeli Air Force movements over Syria and Lebanon, and elevated preparedness”.
Being that this week marks the 10th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War fought between Hezbollah and Israel, the site in question brings with it concerns of increased activity by the terrorist group.
“Hezbollah refrained from celebrating [the anniversary of the war] and omitted its customary boasts of a ‘great victory’, thereby intensifying the sense in Israeli military circles that Iran’s Lebanese proxy may be cooking up a surprise operation,” Debka noted.
The website added that there have been no complaints or protests from Syrian President Bashar Assad about the Israeli military activity on his border, warning this may also be a bad omen.
“The silence from Damascus on Israel’s military steps on the Golan may be no more than a respite as the Syrian ruler waits for Tehran’s endorsement of joint Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah counteraction,” the site conjectured.
Though still considered enemies, there have been no military confrontations between Israel and Syria since the Yom Kippur War ended in 1974, making this technically the longest standing agreement between the Jewish state and an Arab neighbor. However, the mutual accord has been on shaky ground since September 2014 when the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front overran Syrian government forces in Quneitra on the Israeli border as part of the civil war embroiling Syria since that time.
Israel has thus far mostly managed to stay out of the messy conflict on the other side of the border, since the war began in 2011. There have been a few cases of projectiles “overflowing” from the inter-Arab war in Syria into Israel, and the Israeli Air Force has conducted occasional airstrikes on convoys transporting rockets from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.