The events which are unfolding in the Golan Heights, in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel, are difficult to explain at first glance.
The first question is why the terrorist groups of the Syrian opposition are trying to seize positions in the Golan Heights and kidnap UN peacekeepers. What sense does that make if it has no direct influence on the course of the armed conflict within the country?
There is no question as to why, for example, there were battles for control of the border town al-Qusayr. Transit routes from Lebanon to Syria by which the rebels received aid pass through it. But the routes through the Golan Heights from Israel to Syria have been blocked since 1974, and only one border crossing through which few people passed operated there.
But at the beginning of the crisis, armed opposition groups penetrated the 25-kilometer-long demilitarized zone in the south of the Golan heights, which is patrolled by UN peacekeepers, and made it their refuge. At first the rebels only shot at the peacekeepers occasionally to provoke them, and the situation in the Golan Heights was not considered critical in comparison with the fierce fighting in other areas of Syria. The intensification of the terrorists' activities in the buffer zone began in spring of this year, when the rebels suffered several serious defeats in other areas of Syria. The taking of hostages among UN personnel began when the government forces blocked al-Qusayr, cutting off one of the most important transit routes. In March and May of 2013 the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade took groups of Filipinos hostage, attracting the attention of the international public. Furthermore, violent attacks on Syrian border patrols began, one of which even enabled the rebels to temporarily take control of the only border checkpoint in the Golan Heights. The situation around the peacekeepers got so bad that in late May the government of Austria announced that it was preparing to withdraw its 377 servicemen from the Golan Heights, explaining that its decision was due to the «unacceptable» threat to the lives of soldiers caught in the zone of battles between the Syrian government forces and opposition troops. Japan and Croatia announced similar measures.
And although Syrian troops and Hezbollah have mostly regained control of the area, the rebel groups have dispersed along the border and apparently are preparing to start an all-out struggle here.
Events in the Golan Heights have given the Syrian side cause to say that Qatar and Israel are collaborating with the rebels. This side of the Syrian conflict is beginning to reveal detective-story details.
Before the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on Syria initiated by Doha, Syria's permanent representative Jaafari stated that he had possession of an electronic letter confirming that Qatari intelligence agencies had been involved in the kidnapping of peacekeepers by armed rebels in the Golan Heights. «Someone from Doha, Qatar used a Qatari telephone number to contact the kidnappers of UN personnel and instruct them on how to behave, where to go, what to say and what to do with the abductees. This was confirmed by an official electronic letter from a UN employee to UN headquarters,» the permanent representative told RIA Novosti. This electronic message, Jaafari added, «was circulated on the highest level of the UN, starting with the Secretary-General».
«Unfortunately, after I raised this very alarming and serious issue in my statement, there was no reaction from the Secretary-General or from his official representative,» said Jaafari. Furthermore, the permanent representative stated that he had spoken on this topic with the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous. «He said that he did not know about it, but promised to conduct an investigation. But there is still no result,» noted the Syrian diplomat.
«Qatari intelligence is fully involved in the intrigues with the abduction of UNDOF personnel in the Golan heights,» asserts the UN Permanent Representative of Syria. According to him, there could be many reasons for this.
«First, we have proof that the armed groups operating in the Golan Heights are receiving instructions from Qatari intelligence, which is important for us. Second, the armed groups are occupying the Golan Heights and helping Israel. If there are wounded terrorists from these armed groups, Israel helps them, takes them to the hospital and returns them to the buffer zone».
«When we connect these facts, we come to the conclusion that Qatar is working with the armed groups and Israel to achieve the same goal: to destabilize the situation in Syria, undermine the safety of UN personnel and increase tensions in the demilitarized zone between Syria and the occupied side of the Golan heights where the Israelis are located,» said Jaafari.
The UN must conduct an investigation with regard to Qatari intelligence, as under its direction the rebels are abducting UNDOF personnel, believes Ambassador Jaafari. «Israel has an interest in UNDOF leaving the Golan Heights and the vacuum being filled by armed rebel groups».
This looks like the truth; a strong terrorist foothold behind which Israel is hiding de facto already exists in the buffer zone.
Israel's collaboration with terrorists is becoming clearer and clearer. Besides their activity in the buffer zone, they play the role of special forces which conduct reconnaissance and prepare the way for air strikes.
According to Syrian military personnel, Israel's attacks on Syrian military air bases were meant to damage Syria's anti-aircraft defense and enable Israel's planes to attack Syria unnoticed by radar. Furthermore, the Israeli air strikes against military sites near the Syrian capital in May were well synchronized with the activities of FSA fighters and Islamist terrorist groups. The area of Jamraya was shelled from mortars by the opposition at the same time as the Israeli air strikes. Almost immediately after the missile attacks, the rebels attempted to break out of Darayya, which was surrounded, in the direction of the municipality of Mezzeh.
The coordination of the Israeli air attack with the actions of the rebels is confirmed by information from the rebel groups themselves. The FSA announced attacks against government forces during the night of the bombings on May 5 in the areas of Jobar and Barzeh. That night the rebels managed to seize several security checkpoints and cut off the Damascus – As-Suwayda highway. The night of the air strike, rebel activity was also observed in the distant suburbs of Judidet Artouze and Zabadani, where rebels attacked the al-Faher checkpoint. The confrontation lasted several hours, and 17 government soldiers were killed. All of this looks like a well-planned military operation.
The involvement of Israel in the Syrian conflict could not but trigger a reaction from Damascus, and in response to the blatant aggression the Syrian government made an unexpected move. The Palestinian movement in Syria received informal permission to participate in military operations in the area of the Golan Heights.
This mainly means the pro-government Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). A representative of the movement, Anwar Raja, stated that in the near future the Palestinians will start preparing an attack against the Jewish state. But the first targets of the Palestinians' weapons will be the bands of terrorists hiding in the buffer zone.
The UN's reaction with regard to these plans was interesting.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently visited Russia and asked V. Putin to increase Russia's participation in UN peacekeeping operations. The Russian side understood this unequivocally to mean the Golan Heights. Some time later Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is prepared to replace the peacekeepers from Austria in the Golan Heights if the countries of the regions so desire.
But apparently there are more influential forces in the UN than Ban Ki-Moon. The reaction of the official representative of the UN was diametrically opposed to the Secretary-General's request: «We are grateful to Russia for its readiness to send its troops to the Golan heights; however, the agreement on disengagement and the protocol between Syria and Israel do not allow the participation of countries which are permanent members of the UN Security Council in the UNDOF,» said official UN spokesman Martin Nesirki, who has been quoted in the internet media.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees this as nothing more than an excuse. «There's no reason here to refer to 40-year-old restrictions. The tasks of maintaining peace and stability require a different kind of political thought,» wrote Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov on Twitter. He added that «if the UN Security Council really is concerned about the tensions in the Golan Heights, sending Russian military forces there is a solution». And this should be decided by the Security Council, not by the «spokesman of the Secretary-General of the UN».
It is important to realize that Russian peacekeepers are undesirable in the «Golan poker» the West is playing together with Israel. First of all because they could bring order to the zone, which someone does not want. Despite the statement of Israeli Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Faina Kirschenbaum that her country would not oppose the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, ambiguity continues to exist on this issue. Most likely the zone will continue to become a reservoir for the accumulation of a terrorist army, especially if the U.S. decides to provide armed support to the terrorists in Syria. All the more so because the current operation «Northern Storm» for wiping out rebel groups near Aleppo will have the same results as the operation in al-Qusayr: the routed terrorists will seek refuge. It looks like such a «safe haven» is being prepared for them.
Considering that the situation in Turkey most likely will not permit its government to continue actively supporting the rebels, the role of this new foothold increases. Neither Washington nor Brussels nor Tel Aviv is the least bit deterred by the Golan Heights' legal status as a demilitarized zone. In war, they put moral issues aside.
The question is, how well have they calculated this step? Bashar Asad has no other choice than to destroy the «hornets' nest» in the Golan Heights. They will receive help in this from Hezbollah and the PFLP-GC. This is a serious force with a strong motivation: the buffer zone is Syrian territory for which they are prepared to fight selflessly. The West and Israel have chosen a risky hand to play, especially for the Jewish state itself.