As Israeli and Syrian officials increasingly pointed to Hezbollah as the likely culprit behind Tuesday’s brazen assault on Israeli troops along the Syrian border, newly released documents ostensibly leaked from the Syrian regime revealed Wednesday that the terrorist group had conveyed calming messages to Israel in the past year, asking Russia to reassure Israel that it would not attack.
In the protocol of a meeting between Russian deputy foreign minister Michail Bogdanov and Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Miqdad held in Moscow on May 22, 2013, the Russian official is quoted reporting a message conveyed to him by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in a recent nightly meeting.
Nasrallah reportedly told Bogdanov “you can tell the Israelis that the calmest place on earth is the southern Lebanese border, because our entire concern is directed to what is happening in Syria. We have no intention to do anything in that region.”
“The brothers in Syria are those who need (our) weapons now,” Nasrallah reportedly said.
The document was published Wednesday as part of a massive leak of 50,000 official Syrian government protocols and sensitive correspondence referred to as Damascus Leaks, made public by NGO Masarat and highlighted by Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat and other anti-Assad media outlets as a damning piece of evidence against Hezbollah.
The document’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed.
Meanwhile a spokesman for Syrian rebel forces told Channel 2 Wednesday that Hezbollah militants in Syria were in fact behind Tuesday’s attack in which a bomb was detonated against an Israeli patrol near the Israeli-Syrian border, wounding four IDF soldiers riding in a jeep.
“Hezbollah operatives infiltrated several hundred meters (into Israel),” the unnamed official said, “and placed a remotely activated explosive device.”
Hezbollah forces are believed to be operating extensively throughout Syria in support of President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF military intelligence, also told Channel 2 he believed Hezbollah was behind the attack, likely in response to Israel’s recent reported attack on a Syrian weapons convoy in the Bekaa valley as it transported missiles to the terror organization.
But he added that “the ties between Syria and Hezbollah have become so strong that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between them.”
Early Wednesday morning the Israeli Air Force carried out several air strikes on Syrian military positions in the Golan Heights. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the strikes had targeted units involved in Tuesday’s attack.
“Our policy is very clear,” Netanyahu said. “We attack those who attack us.”
Syrian officials said the attacks killed one soldier and injured seven. They warned that such actions by Israel would “endanger the security and stability of the region.”
Asked if he thought Syria might retaliate over the Israeli operations, Yadlin told Channel 2 he did not believe there would be a meaningful response.
Yadlin cited previous cases in which Israel was believed to have carried out attacks in Syrian territory – such as the 2007 bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear facility, as well as various attacks on alleged Syrian weapons convoys to Hezbollah – as examples of incidents far more damaging to Syria that nevertheless did not elicit a military response from Syria.
Israel, he said, was tasked with managing “the difficult balance between the need to bolster its deterrence…and restrict escalation — which nobody wants to see happen.”
The rebel spokesman agreed that Syria would not strike back.
“The regime will not dare to respond militarily. It will justify itself and say again and again that it will respond in the future,” he said. “It cannot respond.”
Netanyahu and Defense Minster Moshe Ya’alon visited the four wounded IDF soldiers on Wednesday, and met with the parents of one of the soldiers who was still in serious condition.