Syria Is Rebuilding Its Army. Israel Must Be Prepared

In 2010, Syria was the only Arab state that posed a serious military threat to Israel. Egypt was friendly, Saddam Hussein was out of the picture, and other Arab countries had neither the desire nor the ability to wage war. After the uprising that began in 2011, the regime of Bashar al-Assad grew far weaker, while its army concentrated its efforts on killing its own people. The IDF, meanwhile, has carried out hundreds of airstrikes to stop Iran from establishing certain military capabilities in the country. Eden Kaduri, Yehoshua Kalisky, and Tal Avraham consider the possibility that, as the war winds down, Damascus might once again pose a conventional threat:

As the civil war began to ebb, and particularly in 2015–2018, the Syrian military underwent many structural changes, with the cooperation of Russia and Iran. Since 2018, the Syrian military renewed its fortification and the annual training to prepare for war against Israel, while at the same time trying to increase its independence. The regime in Damascus invested major sums in rebuilding the Syrian military, and there are force-buildup and reorganization measures, including new personnel appointments. This comes against the background of recent years of positive developments for the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Over the past decade, . . . the main focus of Israeli attention has been Iranian entrenchment on Syrian soil, the Shiite militias that operate freely in Syria, and Damascus’s role in arming Hizballah. Against this backdrop, there is a tendency to overlook the threat posed by a stronger Syrian military. The firing of an anti-aircraft missile from Syria into Israel in early July 2023, in response to an alleged Israeli airstrike on Syria, was a reminder of the current and potential threat.

According to estimates, before the civil war, [Syria’s] Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), better known by its French acronym CERS—which is under the auspices of the Syrian Ministry of Defense and is responsible for manufacture and development of weapons for the military—was one of the most advanced research and development centers in the Middle East. . . . . CERS also provides arms and ammunition to Hizballah. . . . Over the past decade, CERS is estimated to have made a quantum leap in its capabilities, especially in the fields of precision munitions and the manufacture of UAVs and cruise missiles.

The Syrian military is still a long way from posing an immediate strategic threat to Israel. Many challenges remain before it recovers its full strength, led by insufficient funding and manpower to allow it to build up its forces. But Syria’s capability to produce arms and ammunition and the efforts underway to rebuild the military, partly through air-defense systems, as well as the regime’s chemical-weapons capabilities and the possibility that it could resume its nuclear program, signal that this is already [reemerging as a] threat.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Syria

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security