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Children look at an Israeli army mobile artillery unit in this file photo.


With the civil war in Syria being increasingly being internationalized, even Israel got into the action this past week, apparently attacking Syrian army weapons warehouses near the border with Lebanon on Saturday morning, then attacking and killing four fighters Sunday night who were reportedly trying to plant an explosive device on the Israeli side of the ceasefire line on the occupied Golan Heights.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the first attack, as is their practice, but they did acknowledge carrying out the second, arguing that Hezbollah was behind the bomb-planting though it was apparently carried out by local Druze.

Israel has made it clear that if attacked by Hezbollah, it will respond. However, Hezbollah is unlikely to provoke it in any major way, since to do so might lead Israel to launch retaliatory strikes in South Lebanon. In that event, Hezbollah would be forced to redeploy its forces that currently are fighting in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad's regime, and bring them back to Lebanon to defend the territory. This is the last thing Syria or Iran want, since it could well mean the collapse of the Damascus regime, so dependent is it on Hezbollah fighters.

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The fact that Israel has not triggered such a fight with Hezbollah suggests that the Israeli authorities don't want to see the complete collapse of the Assad regime, perhaps fearing what might replace it. Israel, too, would rather wait until a negotiated settlement is given a chance.

Even though it is outside the battlefield, Israel, it seems, has a strategic role in this conflict, and its interests too must be taken into consideration when arriving at a resolution. Its bottom line is to have a Damascus regime that doesn't threaten Israel's position on the Golan Heights nor its state of non-belligerence on the Lebanese border.

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