Thwarting Terror on the Alpha Line

November 20, 2020
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The Israel–Syria border, showing the Alpha and Bravo lines as well as the buffer zone

Friday, 20 November 2020 | The Israel–Syria border consists of two lines, which are separated by a 155-square-mile [401-sq-km] buffer zone. This buffer zone lies in Syrian territory and is monitored by the UN. To the east of it is the Bravo Line that signifies the end of the buffer zone and the beginning of Syria. To the west is the Alpha Line, where the UN buffer zone ends and Israel begins.

History of the Alpha Line

The State of Israel established its independence on May 14, 1948. Hours after declaring independence, the country was attacked by six armies, including Syria. When the war ended in 1949, the Armistice Agreement was signed between Israel and Syria, and the armistice line was drawn between the two countries. In the following years, Syrian forces repeatedly attacked northern Israel from the Golan Heights, violating the agreement.

On June 5, 1967, the Six Day War began, and once again, Israel was under attack by Syria and other neighboring countries. During the war, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] captured a border plateau in Syria known as the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights has strategic military importance as it overlooks both Syria and Israel.

In October of 1973, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel from the north, along with Egypt from Israel’s south. Israel countered Syria’s attack and retained its position in the Golan Heights.

On May 31, 1974, the United States and the Soviet Union brokered the Israeli–Syrian Agreement on Disengagement, signed by both Israel and Syria. This agreement introduced new protocols between Israel and Syria. The UN Security Council adopted this agreement under UNSCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 350, establishing the Alpha Line.

UNSCR 350 established:

  • The Alpha Line on Israel’s side of the marked UN buffer zone
  • The Bravo Line on Syria’s side of the marked UN buffer zone
  • A UN-monitored buffer zone between the Alpha and Bravo lines separating both military forces
  • UNDOF, which supervises the demilitarized zone and limitation zone to ensure no military personnel or munitions enter the area
  • The Quneitra border crossing, the only crossing in the UNDOF-controlled area between Syria and Israel.

UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Forces) are stationed throughout the zone at various observation posts and camps to oversee the Agreement of Disengagement. Unfortunately, their lives have been endangered by Syrian rebels who violate UNSCR 350.

Communities in the Golan Heights

The Golan Heights, a mountainous region in northern Israel, is home to approximately 20,000 Israelis—who live in a variety of small communities and kibbutz collectives—on Israel’s side of the region. Every time Iran and Syria attack Israel and violate the terms of UNSCR 350, they put the lives of these Israeli civilians at risk.

Iran in Syria

Since the outbreak of conflict in Syria in 2011, Iran has attempted to entrench itself and its proxies—including the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah—in southern Syria close to Israel’s border.

As per UNSCR 350, Syrian forces are prohibited from operating within the buffer zone, which is demilitarized. However, there have been countless examples of Syrian terror groups violating this agreement. In August 2018, seven armed Islamic State terrorists crossed the Alpha Line into Israel, endangering innocent Israeli civilians living close to the Alpha Line. The terrorists were stopped by the IDF.

Last year in January 2019, the Iranian Quds Force fired an Iranian-made rocket at a civilian ski resort in northern Israel from Syria. In August 2019, before his assassination, Qasem Soleimani [the late commander of the Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] commanded an attempted attack of killer drones against Israel, sending Iranian Quds Force operatives to work with Hezbollah operatives in Syria.

In March 2020, terrorists entered the demilitarized buffer zone and attempted a sniper attack on Israeli troops. In August 2020, four terrorists crossed the buffer zone toward the Israeli security fence and attempted to place an improvised explosive device near the Alpha Line. In November 2020, the IDF thwarted an additional Iranian-backed Syrian attack to place improvised explosive devices on Israel’s side of the Alpha Line.

The IDF retaliated on all of these terror attacks by striking Iranian and Syrian military targets throughout Syria, including Iranian intelligence sites, Iranian military compounds, rocket launch sites, Quds Force logistics headquarters and a military compound in the Damascus International Airport.

Stopping Terror on the Alpha Line

The IDF remains committed to protecting Israeli civilians. Any threat to Israeli civilians coming from Syria, whether Iranian-funded or not, will not be tolerated. At the same time, the IDF holds UNDOF accountable for fully implementing UNSCR 350 and ensuring that the demilitarized zone remains demilitarized. UNDOF should enforce that Syria refrains from stationing forces and munitions in the demilitarized zone and remains entirely behind the Bravo Line.

The IDF is committed to the agreements and supports the UNDOF.

Posted on November 20, 2020

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published on the IDF blog on November 18, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces

Photo License: IDF