Amidst Syrian calm, Israel secures borders of occupied Golan Heights
Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa
Israel’s military mechanical vehicles began working on constructing and paving a road inside Syrian territory, with a minimum depth of about 100 meters, while in other areas, it reached one kilometer.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in southern Quneitra governorate reported on 9 January that Israeli military vehicles are working on constructing and paving a road inside the Syrian territories.
Since mid-2022, Israeli forces have entered Syrian territory, with a military force consisting of six Merkava tanks and two military bulldozers, accompanied by a number of soldiers to monitor to construct the road.
The Israeli vehicles are continuing their work in paving the road to this day, which the Israeli army has named as “Sufa 53.”
The Golan Heights is a Syrian plateau administratively belonging to the Quneitra governorate. It was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war and has been classified by the United Nations as occupied Syrian territory since that time.
The Syrian regime did not issue any official comment on the Israeli move, despite the passage of several months, while the regime issues repeated “condemnation” statements every time Israel bombs different areas of Syria, often with the aim of targeting Iranian arms shipments, according to several research and media reports.
The Israeli move raises questions about its reasons, amid Israel’s promise by its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sworn in at the end of 2022, that the development of settlements in the Golan Heights would be a top priority for his government, while it was preceded by the pledge of the former Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, with a plan of one billion shekels (317 million US dollars) to “develop” the occupied Golan Heights.
In July 2022, the Hebrew newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, said that 48 years after the ceasefire agreement in the Golan Heights, the Israeli army is waging a “silent and explosive” battle against Hezbollah and Iran to reshape the borders with Syria, as it is working on implementing a plan that secures borders, and strengthen the systems along them.
The IDF (Israeli army) is interested in taking advantage of the transition period after the civil war in Syria in order to exercise Israeli sovereignty fully, clearly, and markedly, especially in the tens of kilometers east of the border fence, according to the newspaper.
“The ultimate goal of the new plan to redefine the border is to mark the international borderline, with large signs or a row of protruding barrels, in order to exercise sovereignty and remove as much as possible the hostile presence of Iran and Hezbollah. For this purpose, additional means of collection and observation will be deployed in the area, which will upgrade the intelligence-operational hold in the area,” Yedioth Ahronoth added.
The new plan also includes multiple ambushes, overt and covert patrols, putting tanks into abandoned outposts and forward positions, and, as mentioned, covert attacks.
Rashid Hourani, defected army officer and a researcher in military affairs at the Jusoor Studies center, told Enab Baladi that southern Syria is an important geopolitical area for various neighboring countries, and Israel, “like other countries surrounding Syria, is taking measures to protect its national security,” according to what it sees suitable for both military movements and political relations.
Hourani added that during the stage in which it penetrates Syrian territory, Israel is working to establish a protection zone in which it will deploy the infrastructure that facilitates carrying out its security and military tasks, including the (Sufa 53) road that it began working on months ago.
It seems that Israel has assessed that one of the obstacles to carrying out its security and military tasks in Syria is the lack of infrastructure, so it is working to establish it as required.
Rashid Hourani, researcher in military affairs
The Israeli political researcher and writer Yoav Stern, in an e-mail correspondence with Enab Baladi, said that the Israeli media did not speak in general about the issue of building the road.
Stern considered that what is happening on the borders is nothing more than work to improve the border wall and that Israel has been working on its northern borders, whether with Lebanon or Syria, for years to enhance its capabilities with regard to preventing the penetration of this wall.
The researcher added that Israel has also built a modern wall on its borders with Lebanon that includes remote monitoring devices that facilitate the process of supervising what is happening at its borders and confronting any attempt to penetrate it.
Why is the regime silent?
The Syrian regime ignored commenting on the Israeli move on the borders of the occupied Golan Heights, despite the passage of months since it began.
Military expert Rashid Hourani considered that the regime’s inaction against Israel in its incursion into Syrian territory indicates its intention to send a message that it “has no objection” to Israel doing what it deems appropriate to protect its security in return for not escalating politically against it.
The regime also seeks that Israel continues to recognize it as a regime in front of influential powers such as the US and the EU, he added.
Stern, in his turn, believes that the Syrian regime is very weak, and in its current situation, it prefers not to address what is happening except in cases of bombings that are clear to everyone.
The regime does not control the borders, neither with the Golan Heights nor with the borders of other countries, as it was in the past, as its control, if any, is “limited,” according to the Israeli researcher.
The regime’s dependence on the Russian and Iranian presence is an additional reason that prevents it from reacting to what Israel is doing on the borders, he added.
Occupied Golan at top of the agenda
The Israeli government was sworn in before the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) on 29 December 2022, after 36 successive governments in Israel’s political history.
At that time, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, presented his agenda to the Knesset.
The occupied Syrian Golan was present in more than one place as part of Netanyahu’s plans for his government’s work, as the principles included the government’s work to recognize the Golan Heights as a strategic area with wide development potentials.
In addition to leading a wave of settlement, development, and promotion of initiatives while “preserving” the Golan’s values in terms of nature, humanity, and environment.
Regarding the focus on the Golan in the policies of the new government, the Syrian military researcher Rashid Hourani considered that using the “Golan” by Netanyahu will be present in his next policy after returning to power.
“This brings us back to the announcement of former US President Donald Trump about the annexation of the Golan Heights to Israel, which was supported by 70% of the Israelis, according to Israeli opinion polls,” he said.
Hourani considered that Netanyahu will exploit this popular satisfaction in his policy, and on the other hand, it indicates the US support for the Israeli steps related to protecting its security on the “northern border.”
The Israeli researcher, Yoav Stern, considered that there is no big difference with regard to the successive Israeli governments on the issue of the Golan, even if Netanyahu is the most declarative among the prime ministers and those responsible for the Golan to gain great popularity among the Israelis, and while other governments may not talk about the Golan, they all tackle the same approach.
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