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Multiple threats

Florian Mebes / nh, srs
August 18, 2012

Israel's fragile borders are vulnerable to a number of threats. Jihadists' recent attack on an Egyptian outpost in the Sinai region demonstrated the danger on that front. War with Iran could also cause a chain reaction.

Source News Feed: EMEA Picture Service ,Germany Picture Service Egyptian soldiers are seen near the Kerem Shalom crossing, a zone where the Israeli, Egyptian and Gaza borders intersect and where an Egyptian military vehicle that was seized by Islamist gunmen tried to storm the border into Israel on Sunday, August 8, 2012. Egyptian aircraft struck at targets near the border with Israel on Wednesday and troops raided villages in a crackdown on Islamic militants blamed for a deadly attack on Egyptian border police, army officials and witnesses said. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
Image: Reuters

It was an unexpected attack. The policemen of a district in the Egyptian part of the city of Rafah were sitting at the table during their nightly fast breaking of Ramadan. The gunfire with Islamist extremists claimed the lives of 16 policemen in early August. The security situation on the Sinai peninsular has become fragile again. When there were several attacks last year, Israel built a high security fence along the 300 kilometers of the border.

Change in security situation entails threats

For 30 years, the country's southern border hadn't caused any trouble for Jerusalem. But the effects of the Arab Spring have now arrived at Israel's doorstep. So far, the new Egyptian government has stayed committed to its 1979 peace treaty with Israel. But the Jewish neighbor is monitoring the situation carefully. The new border fence is expected to be completed in some six months' time.

"Unfortunately, no border can be 100 percent safe," said Israeli armed forces spokesperson Major Arye Shalicar. "There will always be attempts to break through. We develop new technologies, but the terrorists do, too."

In Egypt, the overthrow has been completed. In neighboring Syria, it is still going on at full speed. Syria is in the middle of a civil war. Israel is still occupying the Golan heights, which it seized from Syria in 1967's Six Day War. There are no diplomatic relations between the two countries, which, are still officially at war with one another. Jerusalem can only wait and is concerned that terrorists will get hold of weapons of mass destruction and use them against Israel's civilian population.

Source News Feed: EMEA Picture Service ,Germany Picture Service Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) and Defence Minister Ehud Barak (L) listen to Tal Russo (2nd L), head of southern command, as they stand in front of a burned Egyptian military vehicle that was seized on Sunday by Islamist gunmen in a deadly cross-border assault, after it was towed to an Israeli army base just outside the southern Gaza Strip August 6, 2012. Islamist gunmen killed at least 15 Egyptian police on Sunday and seized two military vehicles to attack a crossing point into Israel, the deadliest incident in Egypt's tense Sinai border region in decades. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
Top Israeli officials review the Sinai border regionImage: Reuters

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has openly considered a military intervention. The goal would be to secure Syria's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. For now, Israeli soldiers are only observing the situation from their look-outs on the Golan Heights. The war hasn't arrived at the border yet.

"We hope things stay calm in the North," was all Major Arye Shalicar had to say with respect to the tense situation on that part of the border.

Iranian angle

Syriais an ally of Iran. A military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities by either Israel or the US could escalate the situation. Meanwhile, southern Lebanon is home to the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which Iran supports as it attacked Israel in the past.

Experts think Hezbollah has expanded its arsenal since the last war with Israel in summer 2006, to 50,000 rockets. In an armed conflict between Israel and Iran, Hezbollah could hardly be expected to stay on the sidelines. Israel is thus facing a war on several fronts.
Bezalel Raviv, a 33-year-old from the Israeli city of Tiberias vividly recalled the war six years ago. "I was in Milan swimming in a pool when my sister called to say Tiberias was under rocket fire," he said.

Raviv packed his bags and went to his home town. His brother told him to stay away, saying roads were blocked in the north, but Raviv wanted to help his family in its hour of need. "I spoke to my nephew, who was nine at the time, and realized he was no longer a child," he said. "That really shook me. I realized I needed to get there without putting myself in danger."

The story is a reminder that human beings are ultimately the ones to bear the consequences of political and military decisions.

No peace in sight

Israel's borders are fragile. The small country of nearly 8 million people is exposed to constant threats. No solution appears on the horizon to the conflicts plaguing the Middle East.

The Israeli army, responsible for the defense of the country's borders, has to be ready for every possibility.

"Every day, we play out all kinds of scenarios," Shalicar said. "It's no secret that we have many enemies in this region who would overrun us if they got the chance."

U.N peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stand guard at the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, as they look on towards the Israeli side near the Israeli town of Metulla, April 30, 2012. Israel began building a wall on Monday along a 1-km (0.6 mile) stretch of its border with Lebanon, saying the barrier was necessary to boost security for an Israeli frontier town across from a Lebanese village. REUTERS/Karamallah Daher (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
Israel began building a wall on its border with Lebanon earlier this year. Here a UN peacekeeper stands on the Lebanese sideImage: Reuters
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is seen between reporters before a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the latter's official residence in Tokyo Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. Barak is in Japan for a five-day visit. (AP Photo/Issei Kato, Pool)
Barak is worried Syrian arsenals could fall into the wrong handsImage: AP