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Israel to Grant Refuge to Syria's Alewites

IDF Chief of Staff Gantz: 'IDF Is Preparing To Grant Refuge To Syrian Alewites After Fall Of Assad Regime'

'Inevitable Collapse Of President Assad Could Trigger Bloodbath Against His Alewite Community'

'Growing Concern In Turkey Over Iran's Nuclear Weapons Project'

Bashar Assad

While Syrian President Bashar Assad was talking of his certain victory in Damascus, IDF Chief Of Staff Benny Gantz was predicting his inevitable fall. In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, Lt.Gen. Gantz also disclosed that he is preparing to grant refuge on the Golan Heights to Assad's Alewite supporters. David Essing sums up some other key assessments of Israel's high command for the new year.

'Syria's President Bashar Assad cannot maintain control and his fall will create a crack in his radical axis with Iran and Hezbollah!' Although Assad was no Col. Gadaffi who would fight in the sewers to his last bullet, there were dangers for Israel. As a last resort, the beleaguered leader might open fire on Israel to deflect the struggle. The General noted that the Syrian army has maintained its considerable firepower despite the internal violence. This includes advanced Russian ground to ground misiles and the sophisticated SA-17 anti-aircraft system that could challenge the air superiority of Israeli jets. In short, the Chief of Staff said: 'I cannot be sure the Golan Heights will remain quiet to the end of Assad's regime'. Moreover, on the day that Assad's Alewite controlled regime did fall, his minority Alewite clan, that has dominated Syria for decades, could face fierce retaliation by their domestic opponents. (Some Israeli experts have warned that the majority of Sunni and Shiite Muslims could perpetrate a bloodbath). The Israeli controlled Golan Heights are not far from Damascus and tens of thousands of Alewite refugees could flee there for safety.

Benny Gantz

There are an estimated one million five hundred thousand Alewites in Syria. Therefore Gen. Gantz disclosed: 'We are preparng to grant refuge to fleeing Alewites on the Golan Heights'. ( DE - An informed Israeli source later said that no preparationswere actually underway on the ground such as tent camps, but the scenario has been taken into account. This would not be the first time that Israel has granted safety to Muslims fleeing from Arab countries. In 1970, after King Hussien's bloody crackdown Palestinians in Jordan, many Palestinian gunmen fled across the Jordan River to be taken into custody by Israel rather than falling into the hands of the Jordanian security forces. At present, thousands of refugees from Sudan and other African countries have also sought safety in the Jewish state.

Lebanon... the threat to Israel from Hezbollah has increased five times since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. And the IDF had to take into account that during the upheaval in Syria, strategic weaponry could leak into Lebanon. Hezbollah is also known to be maintaining its own weapons storehouses inside Syria.

Iran... this could be the year of the final countdown for Iran. Tehran was been facing mounting pressures from various quarters that were impacting on the ayatollahs. However there was still no sign the leadership will halt its nuclear weapons program. Gen. Gantz said it was possible the pressures could induce the Iranians to consider blocking the Strait of Hormuz or carrying out a major terror attack abroad.

In his words, 2012 was a critical year for Iran that was facing not only international pressure over its nuclear project but also internal tension in its leadership as well as other 'unnatural events' that have recently hit the country (mysterious mishaps at its missile and nuclear sites and assassinations of nuclear scientists).

On this score, the Chief of Staff revealed that Turkey is becoming more and more concerned about its neighbor Iran going nuclear. ( D.E. - However in public, Turkish leaders have declared they will not agree to an aerial attack on Iran through its airspace. Ankara and Tehran have also had a falling-out over Iran's support for Assad).

Gaza... IDF will act to interdict terror threats even at the risk of triggering a new round of hostilities. Gen. Gantz declared: 'I'll give the order to act if need be!' That is if he identified the development of hostile capabilities by the Palestinians; he stressed his determination to quell any potential dangers. (D.E.-In the past, Hamas and other terror groups have heated up the border area whenever they deemed fit. The IDF had been in a reacting mode by returning fire. Gen. Gantz has indicated this will no longer be the policy and one of the lessons was adopted after the terror attack from Sinai last August that killed seven Israeli civilians and one Border Guard. The IDF was aware that terrorists in Gaza were planning the assault but decided to wait until the gunmen actually carried out the cross border raid. The IDF miscalculated resulting to what some might say were needless Israeli fatalities).

Egypt... chaos reigns in Sinai which is not number one on Egypt's security agenda. The IDF was on alert for additional terror attacks from Sinai and on this score Hamas could be planning some 'outsourcing'. ( D.E. -|Not Palestinian raiders from Gaza but possibly Bedouin in Sinai).

Judea & Samaria... enjoys stable economic situation with Palestinian security apparatus creating a better security situation. The IDF enjoyed freedom of operational activity to act on intelligence information.

Jordan... the IDF is monitoring what Gen. Gantz described as a 'stable but tense situation' as King Abdullah II rides out the Arab Spring.

Faced with cuts in his defense budget, the Chief of Staff said the IDF must be even stronger in light of the new level of threats. But it was beyond doubt that it was the political echelon that gave orders to the military. In any case, Gen. Gantz pledged the cutbacks would not affect the IDF's level of training.

David Essing

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