The Iranian press is reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has vehemently warned Israel against further airstrikes on Syria. Putin is said to be accelerating shipments of anti-aircraft batteries to Syria.
Meanwhile Syrian leader Bashar al-Asad’s decision to permit guerrilla attacks on Israel from Syrian soil was welcomed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small radical group with offices in Damascus. Whether the leftist group still has any significant operational capacity has yet to be seen.
The USG Open Source Center translates an article from Izvestia:
Russian Newspaper Claims Syria Planning To Attack Israel Through Palestinian Group
Report by Timur Khursandov and Konstantin Volkov: “Syria To Fight Israel With Palestinian Hands”
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
On 7 May it became clear that statements emanating from Damascus to the effect that the recent Israeli Air Force attack on Syria would not remain unpunished were not just an idle threat. Izvestiya has learned that Syrian President Bashir al-Asad has decided to fight the Israelis with the hands of others — the task will be undertaken by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is traditionally sponsored from Damascus and is essentially subordinate to it.
“We have received a clear signal — a green light to carry out operations in the Golan Heights,” the PFLP’s official spokesman Anwar Raja told Izvestiya. “There was no immediate direct discussion, but I think that there is no need for this, because for us, this is a natural decision.”
He added that the PFLP’s leadership plans to discuss the details of upcoming operations with the Syrian authorities soon.
“I do not rule out that we will discuss this directly with the Syrian authorities in the very near future,” Raja noted. “We welcome this decision, which is natural on the basis of the role that Syria plays in supporting the Palestinian resistance.”
Representatives of the Syrian authorities were unable for comments at the time that this issue was published.
Experts, in turn, believe that Al-Asad had to resort to the aid of the Palestinians because beggars cannot be choosers. In the words of Near East Institute President Yevgeniy Satanovskiy, the Syrians have no one else to send against Israel.
“Hamas does not want to go to war, nor does Hezbollah. Both groups fear that if combat operations begin, Israel will undertake them in earnest. It is for the same reason that Al-Asad does not wish to activate the Syrian Army against his neighbor either,” the expert explained to Izvestiya.
At the same time, in his opinion, PLFP operations are not dangerous for Israel.
“An attack by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine poses no threat to Israel,” Satanovskiy believes. “The latter is quite capable of liquidating terrorists.”
The expert, who is currently in the Golan Heights himself, noted that no panic is noticeable in the region.
“The Golan Heights are calm right now,” Satanovskiy says. “Heightened security measures have been introduced, the skies have been closed to flights by civilian aircraft, and therefore the airports situated in northern Israel are not functioning either.”
As for Al-Asad’s opponents in the various Sunni Muslim groups, according to Satanovskiy, they are in a state of confusion. It turns out that their perennial foe Israel is fighting on their side, and they are so far undecided as to how to react to this.
(Description of Source: Moscow Izvestiya Online in Russian — Website of large-circulation daily that is majority-owned by Yuriy Kovalchuk’s National Media Group and usually supports the Kremlin; URL: http://www.izvestia.ru/)