Why Israel Vowed to Protect a Pro-Assad Syrian Village, and Why That’s Risky

The Syrian Salafist rebel group Tahrir al-Sham—which is closely tied to al-Qaeda—carried out a suicide bombing last week in the Syrian Druze village of Hader, located just a few miles from the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. The village’s residents, like most Syrian Druze, have remained loyal to Bashar al-Assad throughout the civil war, and are thus considered enemies by Tahrir al-Sham. In response to pressure from Israeli Druze, the IDF warned Tahrir al-Sham that any attack on Hader will be repulsed forcefully. But protecting Syrian Druze, Yoav Limor explains, poses a dilemma for Jerusalem:

While the covenant between the Israeli Druze and the state of Israel is clear and unquestionable, [and means Israel will defend Druze outside its borders as it would Jews], Hader is an enemy village whose allegiance lies with Assad. In fact, Hizballah cells have been sent from the village to operate against the IDF. Supporting Hader, therefore, would not just support the Druze, but help Assad in the civil war in Syria.

On the other hand, refraining from aiding Hader would not only be a slap in the face of Israeli Druze, some of whom have relatives in Hader, but would also aid the rebels, in this case, al-Qaeda. No one in Israel has any illusions about what will happen if Hader is conquered and terrorists will be a stone’s throw away from Majdal Shams [a Druze village on the Israeli side of the Golan].

The Israeli decision was unambiguous. Just like the last time it was feared the village would be captured, in 2014, Israel made it clear last Friday that it would protect Hader as part of its covenant with the Druze in Israel. This, however, should not be taken to mean that the IDF intends to send ground forces into Syrian territory. Israel dominates Hader topographically and could stop the rebels by an aerial operation and long-range [artillery] fire.

Even though Israel made a clear call, the problem remains. All anyone who wants to drag Israel into the Syrian civil war, or even just to undermine its close ties with the Druze community, needs to do is attack Hader. This does not bode well for Israeli strategy in Syria, as it takes some of the control over events in the area away from Israel and places it in the hands of irresponsible third-parties in the Golan Heights.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Al Qaeda, Druze, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Nusra Front, Syrian civil war

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7