Syria's Response Could Set Tone for Elections

Israeli commentators believe Israel conducted airstrikes in Syria, suggest Damascus' response could set the tone for March elections.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Airstrike near Damascus
Airstrike near Damascus

Although Israel refuses to confirm or deny Syrian accusations that Israeli warplanes carried out two airstrikes near Damascus on Sunday, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz made clear Monday that the Jewish state would not allow "sophisticated weapons" to fall into the hands of its enemies. 

The two strikes on Sunday, allegedly targeting anti-tank rockets and surface-to-air missiles destined for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, were fiercely condemned by Damascus, which called for UN sanctions against Israel.

When asked about the strikes on public radio, Steinitz refused to comment directly but stressed Israel's policy of preventing arms transfers to terrorist groups. "We have a firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organizations," Steinitz said, in a clear reference to Hezbollah.

Damascus has accused Israel of carrying out several air raids on its territory since the beginning of 2013, including one in the Quneitra region of the Golan Heights in March.

There was little doubt among Israeli commentators on Monday that the country had carried out Sunday's strikes.

"There must have been a brief window of opportunity yesterday and the decision to strike was taken," Army Radio suggested.

Some Israeli opposition figures raised questions about the timing of the strikes, which came about a week after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called early elections last Tuesday. 

Theories for the timing of the strikes include the possibility that Netanyahu is looking to shore up his support on the right ahead of primaries for his Likud party in early January and the snap vote on March 17.

"I hope this isn't the opening salvo of the campaign for the Likud primaries and the next elections," Ilan Gilon of the radical left-wing Meretz party said.

Steinitz dismissed claims of any political motive as "ridiculous and harmful." However, some commentators said a possible response from Damascus or Hezbollah to the strikes could set the tone for the election.

"The Syrians' response...will dictate the headlines and the public focus in the coming weeks and month," they said.

That response would most likely come through Hezbollah, and against Israeli troops, security analyst Daniel Nisman said.

"It could be something abroad, like an attack against Israelis...but it's more likely to be some kind of IED (improvised explosive device) attack on the border, against an IDF (army) patrol," he told AFP.

A roadside bomb attack in October claimed by Hezbollah wounded two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanese ceasefire line in the Golan. 

AFP contributed to this report.