Jerusalem, June 29 – Israel is beefing up its defenses along the border with Syria to meet new potential threats as Damascus slips deeper into civil war, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) official said Thursday.
“Our assumption is that a terrorist attack or a war can happen without warning,” Brig.-Gen. Tamir Hyman told journalists on a tour of military positions in the Golan Heights.
“We are upgrading our infrastructure and renewing operational commands to prepare accordingly.”
Embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad has continued his attacks on civilians, with 190 people massacred in a single day on Thursday in a Damascus suburb. Opposition activists are saying the spiraling death toll from the 16-month uprising against Assad’s autocratic rule has crossed 11,000.
Israel fears that Scud missiles and other sophisticated weaponry could fall into the hands of terrorists after the downfall of the Assad regime and possibly be used against the Jewish state.
“The government’s loss of control and the instability is a convenient area of operations for global jihad elements in Syria,” Hyman said. “Even without signs that this is already happening, we need to be prepared. This is the main challenge.”
He said that the IDF is worried specifically about the possibility of Israeli soldiers being abducted, rocket fire from across the border, or terrorists infiltrating Israeli towns in the Golan Heights.
There is also the concern that large numbers of Syrian refugees escaping from the vicious crackdown may flood into the Golan Heights, a scenario Hyman said authorities are preparing for.
Israeli officials and other Western sources have in the past cautioned that al-Qaeda and other extremist forces are active in the Syrian resistance, although the extent of their involvement is unclear.
A Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby, said on Thursday that the U.S. defense community believes “al-Qaeda has some presence inside Syria and interest in fomenting violence in Syria.”