Last updated: 5 June, 2012

Israel sees rising instability on Syria armistice line

There is growing instability on the Syrian side of the armistice line on the Golan Heights, Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told MPs on Tuesday.

“In the Golan Heights, there is an instability developing that is on the rise, as a result of events in Syria, including in the zone adjacent to the border,” Gantz told the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defence.

“The incidents have not reached the level of terror activity, but could get there,” he said in remarks quoted by a spokesman.

His comments came three weeks after a senior military official in Israel’s northern command told AFP said the Jewish state was concerned that the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime could see parts of the Golan fall to groups like Al-Qaeda.

“If the Assad regime will fall, the biggest threat is that the northern border, the no-man’s land, can be taken over by groups like Al-Qaeda,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity, raising fears the strategic plateau could slide into a situation of lawlessness like that in Egypt’s Sinai.

Gantz said Israel was also deeply concerned about “securing the strategic systems” in Syria, with top officials worried that Damascus’s stockpile of sophisticated weapons, including chemical arms, could fall into the hands of groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.

“We are bothered by the possibility of smuggling arms from Syria to Hezbollah. Today, we are more concerned than ever, especially if the regime collapses,” he said, assessing that it was unlikely the instability brought on by the Syrian unrest would ease any time soon.

“There is a price-tag for instability in the region, and we’ll see more activity along the border and more smuggling,” he said.

The Assad regime has been pressing a brutal crackdown against anti-regime forces, which has killed more than 13,500 people in the past 15 months, most of them civilians, human rights groups say.