‘Syria situation could escalate,’ warns former national security adviser

Giora Eiland posits symbolic Syrian missile launch could aggravate tense situation with Israel

Former national security adviser Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland. (Flash90)
Former national security adviser Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland. (Flash90)

“I’m not sure the tension [between Israel and Syria] is behind us,” former national security adviser Major General (ret.) Giora Eiland told Channel 2 Thursday evening. Eiland said there’s a chance that the situation could heat up, describing a symbolic Syrian missile launch against Israel as a possible trigger that could seriously worsen an already tense situation.

On Wednesday, Damascus said Israeli planes struck a “research facility” northwest of the Syrian capital. The accusation came after reports from foreign news sources earlier in the day, which claimed Israel hit a weapons convoy near the Syria-Lebanon border that was transferring arms to the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Eiland said for years there has been a red line, an almost “quiet agreement” between Syria and Israel, by which no anti-aircraft, Scud missiles or similar arms — or chemical weapons — would be transferred from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. As far as actual intelligence, right now little is actually known about what is happening, he claimed.

If another attempt is made to move red-line weapons, Israel faces a dilemma, he said. Israel could act, but then faces the chance of escalation.

US officials told The New York Times on Wednesday that Israel had notified the United States about the airstrike ahead of time.

The officials said that they believed the target of the strike was a convoy carrying sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry heading for Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

An unnamed Western official told The Wall Street Journal that the convoy was carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft weapons.

Israel has so far declined to comment on the strike.

Regarding Russia’s condemnation of the reported Israeli strike and the Jewish state’s lack of coordination with the Kremlin, Eiland declared, “We don’t give enough weight to Russia.” He added that Israel may need to consider Moscow’s importance as a player in the Middle East, as well as its national honor.

The anti-aircraft missiles are “defensive weapons” as far as Russia is concerned, Eiland continued. Russia also believed that as long as Syria was a stable regime, which it was until the Syrian civil war began two years ago, there would be no danger of transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.

AP and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report

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