Syrian forces are preparing to liberate areas in southern Syria after having completely liberated the capital Damascus from al-Qaeda and from ISIS in Yarmouk, Hajar al-Aswad and its surroundings, as the countryside of Homs and Hama has become totally free. The Syrian army and its allies are also preparing to eliminate ISIS south of Deir al-Zour as the last pocket of this organization in the areas under Syrian control. However, the Syrian southern city Daraa is assessing its position regarding Israel, whose greatest fear is the liberation of the south and a later demand by the central government of Syria for the return of the Israeli occupied Golan heights. The seven years of war imposed on Syria helped to form local groups of trained and experienced fighters who are now part of the “axis of the Resistance”, the most highly feared by Israel.
This will prompt Tel Aviv officials – not willing to give back the occupied territory to Syria – to embark on a new military adventure to “feel the pulse” and test the reaction the “axis of resistance”. This is inevitable- especially after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah himself announced new rules of engagement (ROE) laid down after the recent Israeli attack on Syrian army positions.
Sayyed Nasrallah’s personal announcement of the new ROE is worth consideration: it is he who has stated the number, type and quantity (55) of rockets and missiles launched on the occupied Golan heights and the Israeli targets launched against them. This has meaningful connotations because it uses a language understood by Israel, which has experienced Hezbollah for 36 years of conflict on different fronts and styles of response. As usual, Sayyed Nasrallah does not take shortcuts and does not push Israel out of control in his first response steps: he warns first, means what he says, and hits after warning.
Israel has not succeeded in bringing down President Bashar al-Assad, neither removing the “axis of resistance” from the Syrian borders with Israel, nor managing to limit or contain the military capability and arsenal of Hezbollah, which has significantly grown. The repetitive Israeli air strikes on Hezbollah’s weapon transport unit, and on the training centres of thousands of Syrian militants under many names (including “Syrian Hezbollah”) prompted Iran to establish and develop missile manufacturing plants in Syria instead of transferring them to its allies in the Levant across countries.
Indeed, Syria has introduced a new equation (quoted from Lebanon) called “the army, the people and the resistance” which indicates the harmony and necessity of full collaboration between the trilogy as national defence strategy to liberate the entire Syrian territory. The central government in Damascus has created national defence local forces present in all Syrian villages and cities, and even on the border with Israel.
Nevertheless, Israel did not concede to the reality imposed by the seven years of war in Syria. It actually went further in the other direction by bombing Iranian advisors deployed in the depths of the Syrian desert and supporting the Syrian and Russian forces to prevent the “regime change”.
Israel waited for the “Iranian response” which came from Syria and was announced, in detail, by Hezbollah’s secretary general who imposed a new rule of engagement on Israel: “Any future strike, according to its size, will be answered in the Golan Heights, and can hit beyond the Golan Heights and beyond beyond (twice) the Golan Heights to reach the heart of the country “. It is a method of speech that was (and still is) used by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during the second war in 2006 to show his military potentiality and to warn the Israelis that the next response will be greater if things go too far and they don’t stop the provocation.
Israel has tried to soften the new “Golan equation” imposed by the “axis of the resistance” by minimising the Syrian response (firing 55 rockets and missiles against specific Israeli military targets). However, the local Israel media said it frankly: “the Golan Heights were illuminated (by the missiles and rockets falling) like the Christmas tree”. Indeed, that day, residents of Tiberias, Galilee and the Haifa coast went to the shelters for the first time in decades.
There is no doubt that Israel has the greatest military power in the Middle East. However, after the Syrian response, it expressed its unwillingness to be dragged behind a new war, understood Nasrallah’s message and retreated from its enthusiasm to stop the “progressive military answer” of the “axis of the resistance”.
In fact, Israel tried to minimise the effect of the Syrian rockets-missiles response to its repetitive attacks and its official version said “only 20 rockets hit the (occupied) Golan”. However, a rocket launcher appeared on Israeli television with a count-meter, firing 36 rockets, confirming that the Israel’s official version was false and had been subjected to military censorship which was trying to ease the burden. But everyone in Israel – and certainly the “axis of the resistance” – knows that the readiness for a war is not a real option when the results are not predictable and the internal front is not ready to face a massive response, since more than 2.5 million Israelis do not have shelters and are not immune to a destructive war.
Thus, Israel realises today that its repetitive pre-emptive strikes (100 Israeli strikes during the Syrian war) failed to prevent the presence of the “axis of resistance” on the 1973 cease-fire line. Israel used to enjoy absolute air and naval power, as well as the ability to push the United States to support its side in a future war. However, today Israel is aware that its air force superiority can no longer be exerted without any risk to go and “picnic” over Syria because of the anti-missile system deployed in the Levant. Moreover, is its navy and petroleum platforms are not immune from Russian and Iranian Advanced surface-to-surface missiles. It also knows that the Israeli population love prosperity and cannot afford the consequences of a long war.
The Israel “battles between wars” strategy – as the military leadership likes to define it – has failed to:
- prevent the growth of the resistance capability;
- halt the spread of many groups like Hezbollah in Syria;
- separate the Lebanese axis from the Golan Heights;
In fact Israel was totally panicked by only “twenty rockets” (as its official version stated) against the Golan.
Israel has pushed Iran to increase its investments in the military industry in Syria by manufacturing long range missiles in the Levant.
Israel has also forced Syria to improve the performance of the National Defence Forces and the local forces of the Syrian army to become like Hezbollah and benefit from its long experience in fighting Israel.
The “axis of the resistance” is developing its skills to keep up to speed with Israel’s development of its military capability. However, observers expect Israel to try again to “test the pulse” and to try to hit Syria again just to see if they will be fired at.
It seems Israel finds it hard to understand that the project “the new Middle East” is no longer possible to implement and the one leading the military response is experienced in its method of reply. Israel is however aware that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is an opponent who knows how to develop the military, political and psychological answers.
In a very few words, Israel has lost the initiative in Syria. All its attempts to support al-Qaeda and ISIS (the Khaled bin al-Waleed army), the depletion of Iran in Syria and the strike against the Syrian army have caused the expansion of the influence of its worst enemy and the axis he is leading now on the occupied Golan Heights: Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.