Tag Archives: Golan Heights

Israel to Assad: air strikes did not aim to help Syria rebels

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM : (Reuters) – Israel sought to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday that recent air strikes around Damascus did not aim to weaken him in the face of a two-year rebellion, and played down the prospects of an escalation.

“There are no winds of war,” Yair Golan, the general commanding Israeli forces on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, told reporters while out jogging with troops.

“Do you see tension? There is no tension. Do I look tense to you?” he said, according to the Maariv NRG news website.

Intelligence sources said Israel attacked Iranian-supplied missiles stored near the Syrian capital on Friday and Sunday as they awaited transport to Assad’s Lebanese guerrilla ally Hezbollah.

Israel has repeatedly warned it will not let high-tech weaponry get to Iranian-backed Hezbollah, with which it fought an inconclusive war in 2006.

Damascus accused Israel of belligerence meant to support outgunned anti-Assad rebels. The air strikes were tantamount to a “declaration of war”, it said, and threatened unspecified retaliation.

Veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Monday that Israel did not want to clash with Assad.

Interviewed on Israel Radio, Hanegbi said the Netanyahu government aimed to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime”.

Israel is reluctant to take sides in Syria’s civil war for fear its actions would boost Islamists who are even more hostile to it than the Assad family, which has maintained a stable stand off with the Jewish state for decades.

Hanegbi said Israel had not formally acknowledged carrying out the raids in an effort to allow Assad to save face, adding that Netanyahu began a scheduled week-long trip to China on Sunday to signal the sense of business as usual.

The Israel prime minister did not comment about Syria during a visit to Shanghai on Monday.

“DIPLOMATIC CHANNELS”

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, said the Netanyahu government had informed Assad through diplomatic channels that it did not intend to meddle in Syria’s civil war.

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From Pakistan to Israel – by Saleem H. Ali

Courtesy: All voices

Israel – Tel Aviv : As a Pakistani-American, I was initially hesitant to visit Israel in this political climate, but when an invitation from Tel Aviv University beckoned to explore prospects for ecological peace-building in the region, I felt obliged to accept. One of Israel’s most liberal universities was organizing a conference on the prospects for an environmental “peace park” with Syria in the Golan Heights and they wanted me to be the keynote speaker, given my previous research on such efforts worldwide. Some “Realists” might roll their eyes on such a prospect but the concept of “peace parks” is more than an idealist’s ramblings and has shown promise in resolving territorial disputes. Warring parties can be made to realize quite pragmatically that joint conservation is economically beneficial and also a politically viable exit strategy from a conflict. The US used such a strategy in the mid 1990s to resolve a decades-old armed conflict between Ecuador and Peru in the Cordillera del Condor region. The Obama administration’s deputy envoy to the Middle East, Fred Hof, has proposed the Golan peace park effort as a means of a peace-building with Syria as well in a formal paper written for the US Institute of Peace in 2008. So the idea is one which policy-makers are considering seriously and there are even detailed maps and plans that have been prepared to consider such a solution.

Nevertheless, the trip was risky in two ways: first in Pakistan, I would be immediately marginalized for visiting a country that is still perceived by many to be illegitimate. Second, as a Muslim of Pakistani lineage traveling to the region, I would be considered with suspicion in Israel as well as back in the United States. Thus I arrived with conflicting emotions and a protracted security screening at Ben Gurion airport, only to find the country in its latest conflagration in Gaza. An early January air attack on the beleaguered region had left four Palestinians dead and an aid convoy from the UK on Gaza’s border with Egypt was being stopped by Egyptians who claimed that they were under treaty obligations with Israel to ensure proper security measures. An Egyptian soldier was also killed in the frenzied fury of the waiting game for desperately needed aid.

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