Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that the Israel Defense Forces are readying for the possibility that Syria might create a provocation along the northern border to divert attention from the growing protests against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Israeli Defense officials have reportedly been following the events in Syria closely over the last few days, especially after the violence in the southern town of Daraa. Intelligence officials said that despite their earlier assessments that the Syrian regime was stable, and that the unrest sweeping other Arab countries would not affect it, they now believe it will be very hard for Assad to restore the status quo ante.
The IDF is also reportedly preparing for the possibility that Damascus might use Hezbollah or other militant organizations in Lebanon to heat up that front to divert attention from events in Syria. But one senior officer said that Assad and his people appear to be too busy suppressing the domestic unrest to have time for that. So for now, most preparations are at the intelligence level, and there is currently no plan to beef up IDF forces along the border.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, who toured the northern border with senior IDF officials yesterday, echoed the view that the unrest in Syria is mainly due to the country’s poor economic situation and the feeling that the government isn’t doing enough to improve ordinary people’s quality of life,
“We’re always talking about politics, but the reality is that Syria is a very poor country with a very low standard of living and [high] unemployment,” he told soldiers. “The moment the younger generation opens its eyes – and it has many means by which to do so, like Facebook – someone has to provide answers to this. That’s the problem of the entire Arab world: to escape from poverty, to escape from oppression.”
In Lebanon Al Rai newspaper reported on Sunday that Syria may be taking a very important strategic decision very soon in order to divert attention from the growing deadly protests. This could involve a war with Israel through Gaza’s Hamas or a war through Hezbollah in Lebanon according to the newspaper. Al Rai said the Syrian regime is of the opinion that such a diversion could focus the attention of the Arab masses on Israel and therefore could spell the end of the current unrest in the region.
Photo: Protest against Syrian president Bashar al assad : The poster reads: Time for you to go…. 40 years of fear.