Reports of an Israeli attack on a security installation in Syria lead the front pages of Arab newspapers on Thursday, competing with news of a significant financial pledge by Arab countries for Syrian refugees.
“Israel enters the crisis by bombing Syria weapons,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, displaying a Reuters photo of Israelis collecting gas masks at “a settlement near Jerusalem.”
Quoting Western sources, the daily reports on two possible attacks, one against a research center near Damascus and the other against an arms convoy that had just crossed into Lebanon. It claims that anonymous Israeli sources confirmed the convoy attack to Israeli Army Radio, saying that the attack was a “preliminary warning to Syria and Lebanon.”
In a separate article, an eyewitness in the Jamraya region north of Damascus tells A-Sharq Al-Awsat that on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday he heard the sound of military aircraft flying near the capital, followed by at least seven loud explosions, which were “strange and unprecedented.”
Al-Hayat, published in London, buries its report on the attack under news of Gulf Arab pledges of $1.5 billion to Syria on Wednesday. Its headline reads “News of an Israeli attack on Syrian arms trucks to Lebanon.”
The daily ties the military strike to the trip abroad of two high-level Israeli security officials; chief of Military Intelligence Aviv Kochavi to the United States on Tuesday night and National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror to Russia on Monday.
‘It is no coincidence that Western groups — approached by members of the Assad family to study the possibility of establishing a ‘Alawite state’ — have Jews on their boards who are close to Israel’
The daily’s Lebanese columnist Abdelwahab Badrakhan claims in an op-ed Thursday that dividing Syria is a goal shared by both Israel and Iran.
“Nothing can be expected of a lengthy war, forced to turn ‘civil,’ but the aspiration for partition,” writes Badrakhan. “This is good news for Israel and Iran, despite their different motives. If the former’s voice has begun to be heard only within the context of ‘chemical weapons use,’ the latter has become more clear in defining its goals.”
“It is no coincidence that Western groups — approached by members of the Assad family to study the possibility of establishing a ‘Alawite state’ — have Jews on their boards who are close to Israel.”
In a similar vein, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Salah Al-Qalab accuses Israel of steering Russia and the United States away from intervention in Syria, even encouraging Russia to militarily support the Assad regime.
“From the start, [Israel] opposed the arrival of the Arab Spring — with its storms and rain and thunder — to Syria. Therefore, it continued to pressure the Americans and Europeans to refrain from taking a serious stance which could tilt the balance of power in favor of the Syrian revolution.”
Al-Quds Al-Arabi dedicates its lead editorial to the timing of the Israeli strike.
“It is not the custom of the Syrian government to rush and report on Israeli attacks against civilian or military targets on its territory,” writes the editor. “This raises many questions as to its surprising declaration yesterday evening that Israeli aircraft entered its airspace and attacked a science research center near Damascus.”
The editorial raises two possible motives for the Israeli attack: either the Syrian installation was a chemical weapons stash which Israel tried to prevent from falling into the hands of terrorists, or this was just a test run aimed at gauging the Syrian radar system in preparation for a future Israeli attack on Syria.
Has Brahimi despaired of a solution in Syria?
That is the question asked by Al-Jazeera writer Mustafa Rizq. Rizq quotes some very pessimistic-sounding statements made recently by Brahimi at the UN Security Council and elsewhere, warning of the imminent collapse of the Syrian state and calling for more robust action by the Security Council.
According to a Syrian opposition member living in Paris, Sorbonne professor Salah Azimah, Brahimi’s pessimism does not bode well for the success of his mission. Azimah told Al-Jazeera that Brahimi has not yet exhausted all possibilities for dialogue with key officials, including Iranians, Saudis, Qataris and Turks.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Al-Hayat Thursday, Brahimi claims that “nothing can save Syria but the UN Security Council.”
Brahimi said the so-called “constructive ambiguity” policy adopted by the five permanent members of the security council regarding the role of Bashar Assad in the next government must end. He added that the Syrian government must wield full executive responsibilities and be composed of members of all Syrian factions, including “a civilian and military component representing the state.”