12:12 GMT +319 March 2018
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    Syrian-Israeli Tensions: Surgical Strikes or Something More?

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    Andrew Korybko
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    Israel bombed Syria two times over the weekend in an unprecedented escalation of hostilities between the two neighbors, both of which have a completely different narrative about what happened.

    Tel Aviv claims that it was responding to cross-border shelling from Al Nusra terrorists, while Damascus says that nothing of the sort happened and that Israel intervened with the intent of decisively shifting the tide of the anti-terrorist battle away from the Syrian Arab Army and to Al Nusra’s benefit. Both sides also disagree over the extent of the damage that occurred; Israel says that it destroyed a few military vehicles that Al Nusra had commandeered, while Syria says that was actually its own troops who were killed and that civilians were also hit by the airstrikes. It’s expected that both sides would have completely opposite sides to the story, just as they always do, but what’s of particular interest this time around is the context in which tensions are escalating.

    The bulk of Damascus’ attention has been on the northeast of the country in the so-called “Race for Raqqa” and subsequent “Dash for Deir ez-Zor”, but now all of a sudden the southwestern border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights has become a major hotspot. Regardless of the reason behind Israel’s surgical strikes and whether it was indeed to respond to terrorist shelling like Tel Aviv alleges or to support Al Nusra like Damascus says, the fact indisputably remains that Syria must now balance its strategic focus between its northeast and southwest. Moreover, questions are lingering about the real motives behind Israel’s intervention last weekend, with some voices claiming that this might have actually been more about securing a so-called “buffer” in the relevant “de-escalation zone” than anything else. Others, however, maintain that Israel has no interest in doing this, but the debate surrounding Tel Aviv’s latest bombings has created fertile ground for some people to doubt the Mainstream Media narrative and consider whether Israel does in fact have ulterior motives just like Syria claims.

    In addition, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the next rounds of the Astana and Geneva talks are expected to begin early next month, so whether or not it was Israel’s intent, last week’s airstrikes could complicate these interlinked processes by emboldening terrorists and “rebels” alike to hold firm in resisting any pragmatic settlement with Damascus.

    Andrew is joined by Afraa Dagher, Syrian political activist, and Vanessa Beeley, Independent investigative journalist and photographer, associate editor at 21st Century Wire.

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    Daesh, Syrian Arab Army, Al-Nusra Front, Israel, Syria
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