For four days since 25 July, the Syrian army has been continuously firing artillery batteries that have been moved close to Israel’s defense lines on the Golan border. Syria's artillery fire is dangerously close to provoking an Israeli response. Notably, Syria's carefully orchestrated campaign continues round the clock.
This is the first time in the six years of the Syrian war that Bashar Assad has ventured to come near to provoking Israel. Today, however, he appears to be emboldened by his Russian ally.
For the moment, Israel's military, the IDF, is holding fire. But the nation's military and government leaders know the time is near when the IDF will be forced to hit back, especially since it is becoming evident that the Syrian army’s steps are backed by Russia.
DEBKAfile’s military sources provide details of the Syrian steps:
☭ The Syrian army’s 90th and 121nd battalions have been firing their artillery batteries non-stop across a 10km band along the Golan border from Hamadia, north of Quneitra, up to a point facing the Israeli village of Eyn Zivan. (See attacked map).
This means that the Syrian army has seized the center of buffer zone between Israel and Syria and made it a firing zone.
☭ This artillery fire fans out across a radius that comes a few meters short of the Israeli border and the IDF troops stationed there. It then recedes to a distance of 500 to 600 meters and sweeps across the outposts and bases of the Syrian rebel forces believed to be in touch with Israel or in receipt of Israeli medical aid.
☭ The new Syrian attack appears to hold a message for Jerusalem:
For six years, you supported the rebels against the Assad regime in southern Syria. That’s now over. If you continue, you will come face to face with Syrian fire.
☭ Damascus is also cautioning those rebels:
For years, you fought us with Israel at your backs. But no longer. Watch us bring you under direct artillery fire, while the IDF sits on its hands.
☭ On 26 July, Russian media published an article revealing that Russia had delivered to the Syrian Air Force, advanced SU-24M2 front-line bombers, which is designed for attack on frontlines of battle.
Israeli officials were unpleasantly taken aback by the news. Up until now, the Russians and Syrians refrained from deploying air strength in South Syria near the Israeli border. Now the Syrian air force has the means to do so.
☭ DEBKAfile military sources report that the SU-24M2, following recent upgrades and modifications in Russian factories, is now capable of dropping smart bombs – ballistic bombs with a guidance system on their tails that enable them to hit targets with precision. This guidance system does not rely on US GPS satellites but rather the equivalent Russian GLONASS system which is linked to a network of 21 Russian satellites and partially encrypted for military usages.
In addition, the SU-24M2 is equipped with a system that projects the information the pilot needs (flight details and battle details) on the plane’s windshield (head-up display) and on the pilot’s visor.
☭ The Russians delivered to the Syrians two of these sophisticated airplanes this week. Eight more are on their way.
RUSSIAN MADE SU-24M2 BOMBERS | Photo: DEBKAfile | Article continues below
The IDF has concluded that it is only a matter of time before these planes appear in Southern Syria and so generate a new and highly combustible situation on Israel’s northern and northeastern borders.
The Russians are colluding with Damascus to inform Israel that both Russia and Syria will no longer allow the Jewish state to continue backing rebel forces in southern Syria or to sustain the buffer zone that they man.
Israel may pay dearly if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot decide to continue to abstain from hitting back at the Syrian fire which is aimed every few hours at the vicinity of IDF posts or the impending arrival of Russian bombers. The price in store would be the weakening of the IDF’s hold on the Golan border.
This is a lightly edited version of the original essay published by DEBKAfile at http://debka.com/article/25572/Syrian-Russian-Provocations-Could-Spark-Golan-Clash