As hostilities continue to rage over the border in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending a warning to the combatant sides not to turn their guns toward Israel.
Visiting Israel Defense Forces troops during a training exercise on the Golan Heights Wednesday, Netanyahu said, “We are not looking for even a single challenge, but no one will attack the State of Israel without a strong and decisive response.”
“The exercise that we are doing here is not theoretical. The reality around us is changing very quickly. It is explosive and dynamic and we need to be ready accordingly,” he said.
The prime minister told troops, “In the decisive battle, beyond the men and the technology, it is our determination, the will to win and the ability to break the enemy and – at the decisive moment – to put the fear of death into him. This is how battles are won.”
“I hope that they will not try us. But if they do, I am certain that we will meet the challenge,” Netanyahu added.
Ynet reports that the drill was aimed at simulating the conquest of large amounts of territory.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon who accompanied Netanyahu on the tour said to Golani Brigade troops, “Golani, like other combat units in the IDF, may be called to battle on short notice. Therefore, this drill has a special significance at this time and on this front.”
“We will not tolerate a violation of our sovereignty or any harm to our soldiers and citizens. It is important to make it clear to those on the other side of the border who are planning to hurt us in one way or another that we are prepared and determined to act with full force,” Ya’alon added according to Ynet.
Israel has said it wants no involvement in the Syrian hostilities, but stray mortar fire and gunfire have on occasion landed on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.
Israel’s concerns are twofold: that jihadi rebels could set up positions along the Golan and use them to launch attacks on Israeli communities in northern Israel, and the continued threat of Syria’s support for Hezbollah, the radical Islamist Shi’ite group aligned with Iran. Since the fighting began between rebels and the Syrian army more than two years ago, Israel has at least three times bombed facilities in Syria it suspected was holding weapons intended for Hezbollah.
Reuters quotes the IDF as saying Wednesday’s exercise in the Golan was planned a year ago as part of a regular schedule of drills.