Syria-Israel front set to open as war spills over Middle East borders

A second front in the Israeli-Palestinian war will open in the occupied Golan Heights along Israel’s northeastern border with Syria, geopolitical analysts at GlobalData’s TS Lombard Research Group have predicted.

As the conflict in the Middle East escalates, Christopher Granville, CEO of Global Political Research, expects “there will be other fronts in the war”, naming the disputed Golan Heights in western Syria as an overlooked flashpoint.

Granville’s prediction, which came during TS Lombard’s War-Torn World: Ranking Geopolitical Risks webinar, contradicts the consensus of most analysts that a Lebanon-Israel front is more likely to open first.

Clashes are already ongoing between the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Israel’s northern border.

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On October 13, a Reuters journalist was killed by Israeli rockets fired at Aalma El Chaeb, in southern Lebanon. Six other journalists were injured.

Why the Golan Heights?

On October 12, Syrian state media SANA reported that Israel had launched missile strikes on Syria’s two main airports in Damascus and Aleppo. Reuters he says that was it incorrect reference with an image of an Israeli air strike on Gaza, not Syria.

The Golan Heights have been a source of tension since Israel annexed them in 1981 during the Arab-Israeli war.

Israel claims the Golan is a necessary buffer zone between itself and civil war-torn Syria. If the IDF vacates the ground, Israel says Iran – an ally of Syria – will launch attacks on Israel from the Syrian side of the border.

Syria insists the Golan is occupied territory and has demanded its return. Both nations covet the Golan’s rich water resources and fertile land.

Hundreds killed in Gaza hospital airstrike

While debate rages over the possible involvement of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, the conflict and casualties remain largely centered in the Gaza Strip.

US President Joe Biden arrived in Tel Aviv today (October 18) following widespread outrage over an airstrike on Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, which killed an estimated 417 people, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Palestine blamed Israel for the attack, but Israel says it was an errant rocket fired by Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group that has worked with Hamas in the past.

There was a wave of protests against the hospital airstrike in Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. At the international level, countries such as Canada, Germany, Egypt, the Turkey and Qatar have condemned the attack.

International calls for Israel to follow the rules of engagement have intensified after Israeli tank shelling hit a UN school in Gaza’s al-Maghazi refugee camp yesterday (17 October).

Six people were killed and dozens injured, according to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

All eyes are now on the Biden visit. While the White House is expected to re-emphasize support for longtime ally Israel, pressure is on for Biden to convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow humanitarian corridor in Gaza.

Russia’s “largest-scale” offensive in eastern Ukraine

Events in Israel and Palestine mean that Russia’s heaviest offensive in the east Ukraine flew under the radar, despite the fact that it included heavy artillery, rocket launchers, dozens of armored vehicles and more than 2,000 soldiers.

“There have not been widespread reports … of the Russian counterattack across the entire front, particularly near the city of Donetsk,” says Granville.

Russia’s three battalion offensive is centered on the strategically and symbolically central town of Avdiivka. Described as the gateway to Donetsk, Avdiivka has been on the front lines since Moscow’s first invasion in February 2022.

Ukrainian officials say they have repelled hundreds of airstrikes, artillery attacks and bombs that have fallen on Avdiivka and the surrounding area since October 10.

Russia’s “reverse counterattack” is expected to be linked to US support for Israel.

US domestic policy expert Grace Wan says a “floor vote tying Israeli and Ukrainian aid” is likely to be held in Washington, although “chaos on Capitol Hill” surrounding the vote by the US House Speaker will delay any Israel-Ukraine aid package.

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