The Washington Times on January 6, 2013, published an AP report on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging to build a fortified fence along the frontier with Syria, warning that radical Islamist forces have taken over the area. Excerpts below:
Israel largely has stayed out of the civil war that has engulfed Syria and killed more than 60,000 people, but it is concerned that violence could spill over into Israel.
Israel worries that Syrian President Bashar Assad might try to draw Israel into the fighting as a distraction if his situation becomes desperate. An even greater concern is a scenario in which Mr. Assad is toppled, Islamic extremists take his place and gain control of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Speaking at a weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu said the Syrian regime was “unstable” and Israel was concerned about the country’s chemical weapons capabilities. Therefore, he said, Israel needed a barrier on its frontier with Syria, similar to a structure it has nearly completed along its border with Egypt. That fence has largely stopped the flow of African migrants.
“We intend to erect an identical fence, with a few changes based on the actual territory, along the Golan Heights. We know that on other side of our border with Syria today, the Syrian army has moved away, and in its place, global jihad forces have moved in,” he said.
“Global jihad” is the term Israel uses for forces influenced by al Qaeda. Syria’s rebels include some al-Qaeda-allied groups.
Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the strategic plateau, a move not recognized by the international community. Despite constant hostility between the two countries, Syria has kept the border mostly quiet since the 1973 Mideast war.
Defense officials say they have already fortified 6 miles out of the planned 45-mile route it plans.
Since the uprising against Mr. Assad began in March 2011, several mortar rounds and other light munitions have landed on the Israeli side of the frontier.
Israel has almost completed a barrier along 125 miles of its border with Egypt to block African migrants and militants from crossing in from the lawless Sinai peninsula.
Israel previously constructed a barrier along and in the West Bank aimed at keeping Palestinian suicide bombers out of its cities.