For more than a year, Syria has been engaged in a tense civil war. Despite grave human rights abuses and oppression perpetrated by Assad’s regime, the international community has been wary to enter the internal conflict plaguing the Syrian people. Yet, this past week, when shells were fired from Syria into the Golan, and with Syrian military tanks entering the demilitarized zone, Israel entered the conflict for the first time.
In response to mortars falling in Israel, the IDF fired into Syria multiple times in the direction of the shots, registering direct hits on Syrian artillery. The mortars and retaliation marked the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War that fire was exchanged between the countries. Israeli military sources explained that the Israeli response was meant as a warning. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel “will not allow anyone to breach our borders or to fire on our citizens,” detailing that any crossfire will be responded to with severity.
There is no indication that either Syria or Israel seek to enter war with each other. Israeli officials believe that the mortar fire was not intended to enter Israel, and that the Syrian conflict is very much an internal one. As Israeli President Shimon Peres explained to CNN, “The bloodshed which I regret so much in Syria has nothing to do with Israel, nothing whatsoever.”
Although Peres intends for Israel to play no role in the Syrian conflict, it is clear that Israel does indeed fear that the civil war might threaten security on Israel’s northern border, one of the most militarily strategic areas of the country. In response to the conflict, Israel seeks United Nations support in the hopes of preventing further escalation; the international community is itself urging restraint.
In May, the Reform Jewish community urged the international community to redouble our efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, declared that President Basahar al-Assad “must relinquish power and bring an end to the violence that has been perpetrated over the past year,” explaining that “within the international community, strong opposition to the Assad regime and strong support for the regime’s victims will continue to be vital moving forward.” As the conflict continues to plague Syria, our hearts are with those affected by the violence.
Image courtesy of Reuters