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Viewpoint - July 18, 2013
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IDF Offensive Redeployment Amid Syrian Fire
he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth
On July 16, 2013, at least 25 mortars landed next to an Israeli stronghold near Quneitra on the Golan Heights. Astonishing images published by Israeli media show that the IDF has been redeployed in an offensive pattern.
The extraordinary picture above is one of them. In the background, one can spot a plume of smoke rising from the mortars' hit. Next to it, one can see the entry to a stronghold viewpoint, featuring a protected access. The two soldiers are standing on the roof of a stronghold defense position. Everything beyond the stronghold is Syria.
The mortars are secondary. The soldiers at the front of the picture are the real news.
The two soldiers are manipulating an "orev" ("crow" in Hebrew, also can be translated as "ambusher," somebody making an ambush) missile. "But that is an American TOW,"* many readers are exclaiming by now.
As recently commented in First Super-Hercules Delivered to IAF, Israel doesn't buy key equipment from the shelf. It always demands upgrades and changes. Sometimes, equipment is further upgraded by the IDF. The modified equipment is then re-baptized. The result offers what in the IDF is called "field-security."
A captured IDF soldier will be able to spell out the new code names but would be unable to link it to the original equipment or to state how the equipment was modified. He never saw the original. American TOWs became IDF's "Orvim," the crows' blackness camouflaging all links to the original item.
Practically all IDF brigades have an anti-tank company, more often than not equipped with TOWs. They can be used in a defensive deployment of the unit, but not in this case. This is what makes the image extraordinary. Look at the shoe of the soldier. It is red, identifying him as a paratrooper. In other words, the "huliya," ("joint," "vertebra," "link," a squad of two or three soldiers) belongs to the Paratroopers Brigade Anti-Tank Company.
Considered an almost elite unit, they are offensive in nature. In battle, they move ahead of their exclusive brigade, clearing the ground of tanks and other armoured vehicles.
"Bah, they are ant-killers, they walk everywhere, it means nothing," I told myself. Then, I noticed the second image.
It shows an IDF tank overlooking Quneitra.** Note the barbed-wire on the front. The tank is within a stronghold.
A few days ago, in Key IDF Rearrangement Announced, I commented on the redeployment of the IDF forces on the Golan. Specifically, that Division 366 will take over the strongholds line and Division 36 while the IDF heaviest and largest regular division will become one of the five multi-theatre division of the army. Division 36 is an armoured one; it has many tanks on the Golan. Yet, I have spent over two years in the area, know all the IDF strongholds and never, but absolutely never, have seen a tank within a stronghold in an attack position. Its cannon can easily reach Quneitra.
IDF Tank Overlooking Quneitra
Golan on Fire
Finally, the third picture shows the fire caused by the mortars. They didn't hit the stronghold, but they set on fire the adjacent minefield. At the time these lines were written, no serious damages were reported.
No less shocking than the pictures was the reaction of the IDF.
IDF spokesman told to Yediot Ahronot-the Hebrew largest paid-newspaper-that it won't react. It added that the event was an error in the ongoing fights between the Syrian government and the mercenaries. The only formal reaction was a complaint given to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone between Syria and Israel.
This is pretty mild, considering that three main military bases of the IDF in the area could have been hit, even indirectly by the explosion of the minefields surrounding them.
This is even stranger when remembering that on May, Syria hit the Hermon Upper Ski Site following an Israeli airstrike on its territory as reported in Syria Counterattacks Israel.
That article started as follows "Shooting accurately a mortar is not easy. Its steep ballistic trajectory demands expertise and calculations, especially when more often than not, the operator of the weapon cannot see the target. Yet, it is perfect for mountainous areas, where it can vertically bypass stubborn summits."
In today's event, we see a similar accuracy. It wasn't one mortar shell that had been wrongly shot. At least 25 mortars fell near the most strategic spot on the Golan Heights, setting afire the minefields surrounding very sensitive bases. Are we supposed to believe that well-trained soldiers committed 25 times consecutively the same error?
The answer is in the images. The answer is in the recent announcement by IDF Chief and the Minister of Defense that the army would be rearranged and redeployed. The paratroopers' anti-tank company soldiers are practically invisible, unless looking for them. However, the tank over Quneitra is difficult to ignore. It wasn't brought after the shooting. Placing it there takes time, IDF tanks are not allowed to move on paved roads. Depending on the location of its base, it arrived either with a semi-trailer truck, or it traveled on earth paths.
An astonished Syrian Army is looking these days how the IDF is moving from a defensive deployment into an offensive one. When they spotted a tank just over Quneitra, probably for the first time after the armies separated following the 1974 Israeli partial withdrawal and establishment of the UN force, they decided to send a small warning, just a few mortars, to the IDF.
The message was understood. Heroically, the IDF decided not to react to the result of its own provocation. Oh, the infinite grace of the bullies! One more page in the preamble to the next Israeli-Syrian war has been written.
* BGM-71 TOW ("Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided") is an American anti-tank guided missile produced since 1970.
** The Golan Heights are a rather flat plateau. Few features break its baseline; thus, these immediately acquire military importance. The cease-war border between Syria and Israel draws an arch. At its center is Quneitra, the largely capital of the Quneitra Governorate in south-western Syria. Founded in the Ottoman era as a way station on the caravan route to Damascus, it became a garrison town strategically located near the ceasefire line with Israel. On 10 June 1967, the last day of the Six-Day War, Quneitra came under Israeli control, and then was briefly recaptured by Syria during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but Israel regained control in its subsequent counter-offensive. The city was almost completely destroyed before the Israeli withdrawal in June 1974. Abandoned, it now lies in the demilitarized United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone between Syria and Israel. It features an official border crossing between the countries, which is administered by the UN. In The Cross of Bethlehem I describe how the IDF routinely violates the international area of Quneitra, with the silent cooperation of the UN. Next to it are several of the most dramatic hills in the Golan Heights. The image shows the Avital-Bental extinct volcano on the Golan Heights as seen from Quneitra; even at this low resolution, one can appreciate the IDF Tel Avital intelligence base at its top. From there, Damascus can be seen. Just south of it along the border, are the Hazeka Hills, where the hit stronghold is located. This stronghold belongs to the Israeli Air Force; it serves as a weather station and a communications-relay base, it was attacked by Syria last November. The main headquarters of the IDF on the Golan are nearby. Thus, the ongoing events on this area are unlikly to be random.
IDF Offensive Redeployment Amid Syrian Fire
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