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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Syria opens Damascus - Quneitra highway to civilians terrorists

Last week, Syria quietly opened the Damascus - Quneitra highway to 'civilian traffic' for the first time in forty years. For those who never heard of it before:
Founded in the Ottoman era as a way station on the caravan route to Damascus, Quneitra came under Israeli control on 10 June 1967, the last day of the Six-Day War. It was briefly recaptured by Syria during the 1973 Yom Kippur War but Israel regained control in its subsequent counter-offensive. The city was almost completely destroyed prior to the Israeli withdrawal in June 1974 [but not necessarily by Israel - that's covered later in the Wikipedia article, but is not really relevant to this post. CiJ]. It now lies in the demilitarized United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF) between Syria and Israel, a short distance from the de facto border between the two countries. Quneitra has not been rebuilt, but has instead been preserved in its destroyed state as "a propaganda showcase against Israel."
Yesterday, chinless ophthalmologist Bashar al-Assad accused Israel of preparing for war due to a large military exercise that concluded yesterday in the Golan Heights. But last week, Assad himself quietly reopened the Damascus Quneitra highway hoping, according to DEBKA, to use the highway to send terrorists into Israel while maintaining deniability.
The dozens of military roadblocks studding the 60 km high road connecting the capital with the Syrian part of Golan for 40 years were removed, except for two – one at the entrance to Qunetra from the Syrian end and one at the town’s exit to Israeli Golan. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that this measure went mostly unnoticed, although it made Israeli military intelligence sit up.

Until this week, civilian traffic heading towards Syria’s Golan border with Israel was discouraged by the government in Damascus; a traveler needed eight different pieces of paper and endless waits to get past the military roadblocks. All of a sudden, the powers-that-be in the Syrian capital decided to allow civilians free passage to Golan meaning preparations are complete for the launch of a cross-border campaign of terror in the Israel sector of the territory. Such a campaign could quickly escalate into a full-scale war.
But how, you might wonder, could Assad deny that he is behind terrorists being sent from Damascus, across Quneitra into the Israeli Golan Heights? It seems that Assad has been cultivating a group of vigilantes:
In speeches he made in the last three months, Bashar Assad made a point of referring to the mounting pressure of refugees from Golan living in Syria to take “liberation” in their own hands. Official Syrian figures put the number of “Golan Heights refugees” at 410,000, a figure which is grossly exaggerated to highlight their suffering. The real refugee figure from this tiny sliver of 1,070 sq. km. of land is no more than 60-70,000, around half of whom are crowded into the Wafadin camp on the western outskirts of Damascus.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources disclose that a year ago, in June 2006, Syrian military intelligence recruited several hundred Golan refugees for a new framework called the Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights. They were trained for terror operations, blowing up roads and bridges, attacks on military camps and convoys and hostage-taking. Three months ago, the Front struck for the first time, detonating an explosive device on the border fence as an Israeli patrol passed by.
The Assad government will then claim that it has no control over traffic passing the border, as it has done in Iraq and Lebanon for years.

Perhaps this sheds some light on another story I saw this morning. Arutz Sheva reported (supposedly based upon a story from the London Daily Telegraph, but I could not find it there) that Iran is planning to deploy missiles that can strike Israel in Syria. The missiles - Shihab-3's, Scud-B's and Scud-C's - can reach any part of Israel from within Syria and under a treaty signed two years ago between Iran and Syria, Iran has the right to deploy them at any time.

So here's the scenario: Assad sends terrorists through Quneitra into the Golan to attack Israel. Israel responds to the attack for which Assad claims not to be responsible. Syria uses Iranian missiles to respond to Israeli retaliation. Sounds all too plausible....


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