25-Sep-12: Incoming fire on the northern border
It’s the eve of Yom Kippur and though the mood here in Jerusalem is calm (thankfully) and the weather glorious (of course), the reverberations of the war that broke out on that day in 1973 are in the air (inevitably).
In the past hour, mortar fire erupted on Israel’s northern border, causing explosions in what appear, for now, to be open fields. No injuries, but some property damage that’s not yet detailed in the news here. It’s reported that the fire is a kind of spillover from the barbarism unfolding over the past year inside Syria: the source is believed to be forces of the Syrian army “engaged” - as the journalists like to put it - with rebel forces near Syria’s border with Israel. AFP says the mortars crashed into Israel “by accident”. They were intended to hit civilian villages inside Syria.
That ongoing engagement has caused thousands of deaths since it broke out in March 2011. Wikipedia says various sources, including the UN, place the rising death toll at between 26,000 [source] and 39,120 [source] people killed, about half of them civilians. Where is the outrage?
This is not the time to go into the vast difference in response by the international community to the massacre of Arabs by Arabs compared with the constant condemnation of Israel in international forums. But if we’re discussing it, where are the effective steps taken until now by the UN Security Council relating to the Syrian barbarism and calculated to prevent even more people from being killed? Ban Ki-Moon knows and has expressed himself [here for instance]. The torrent of blood continues.
This morning, representatives of Israel’s government filed a complaint with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) operating in the area [report] since 1974. But that’s almost certainly done as a formality rather than out of any expectation that something will result. There are 1,036 UNDOF troops (from Austria, Canada, Croatia, India, Japan and Philippines) in the area as of today, plus 41 non military international staff and 102 local civilian staff members. Multiplied by 38 years, and that amounts to a massive financial outlay. The embattled Syrian villagers who are bombarded daily by the tanks and air force of their own armed forces must be wondering if there wasn’t a better place for that money to be spent all these years.
About the photograph at the top of this post: people outside the area hear the name “Golan Heights” and the bitter demands of the Syrians who want the area back under their control… and think that the Golan is an elevated vantage point that looms over Syria and gives Israel some sort of strategic advantage. The opposite is true. They’re called “Heights” because the ridge looms over northern Israel. But on the Syrian side, they’re not heights at all, as the photo illustrates.
Between 1948, when Israel won back its independence, and 1967 when the Six Day War was fought, the Syrian military was arrayed all along 8 to 12 mile long Golan Heights ridge overlooking Israel and used it as a base for attacks on Israeli farmers and fisherman. Israeli towns below the Golan were routinely bombed from above, and sniper fire was a constant. During those 19 years, some 140 Israelis were killed and many more were injured. Today, many Israelis know the Golan Heights best because of the outstanding world-class wines that are now produced there.
Photo: Syrian woman takes a picture of an Israeli community located on the Golan Heights [Image Source]