Israeli Planes in Syria’s Skies: Theories, Threats and Warnings

Israeli Planes in Syria’s Skies: Theories, Threats and Warnings

JERUSALEM -- In Israel, a country where everyone has an opinion and every home has at least one senior military expert, the events that (may or may not have) transpired in Syria last Thursday have fueled a frantic round of nervous speculation and analysis.

Last week, Syrian authorities announced they had fired anti-aircraft weapons at Israeli planes illegally flying over their territory. At the time, Israeli officials refused to comment. Since then, the entire government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has maintained complete silence on the issue, displaying a level of discipline that has left Israelis utterly amazed. The government is so determined to keep quiet on the subject that the prime minister broke with tradition and canceled his annual round of interviews scheduled for the Jewish New Year. Those who know what exactly happened may not be talking, but just about everyone else has a theory.

It does seem rather clear that Israeli planes flew along the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey expressed its displeasure at finding discarded Israeli fuel tanks along its side of the line. What is unclear is how unusual the Israeli flights were, and what their purpose might have been. Israel's intention could have included sending a warning to Syria, investigating Damascus' newly acquired armaments, or actually destroying secret installations. The operation could have focused exclusively on matters involving Israel and Syria, but it is just as likely that it pertained to Syria's connections to extremists groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Damascus' links to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even North Korea may have come into the equation.

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