Russian Military Buildup in Syria Concerns Israel
Israeli officials have expressed concern over reports of a major Russian military buildup in neighboring Syria, a move that could have far-reaching ramifications for the Jewish state.
A number of sources have recently noted a major influx of Russian personnel and equipment, including fighter jets, into war-torn Syria, presumably to prop up the embattled regime of Bashar Assad. “We have been informed that the Russians are entering into active intervention,” Amos Gilad, senior advisor to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, said at a recent security conference.
Ram Ben-Barak, Director-General of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, told Reuters that this development “could [have] ramifications for us, certainly.” The first, and most obvious, concern is that periodic Israeli strikes on Syrian targets could inadvertently result in Russian casualties, bringing Jerusalem and Moscow into direct conflict.
Israel has launched numerous air strikes on Syrian regime military convoys suspected of transferring advanced weapons to its Hizbullah allies. The IDF has also routinely returned fire into Syria any time Syrian ordnance hits the Israeli Golan Heights. An additional reason for worry is that this development further highlights the waning influence and power of America in the Middle East.
At the same time, ISIS and the other jihadist forces currently tearing the region apart need to be stopped, and many living here feel America and other Western powers are doing far too little to make that happen. (Israel Today magazine, Sept. 10, 2015).
The sharav, or hamsin in Arabic (the “h” sounds more like a guttural “ch”), is a heat/dust storm that often assaults Israel (the whole Levant area actually) in the fall. We have lived through a few of these ourselves. You wake up one morning and the sky is yellow, the dust and sand are everywhere, and the heat is oppressive. They often occur over a fifty-day period (hence the Arabic name meaning “fifty”).
As I write, Israel has been in a sharav for several days and it is slated to go on for another two days or so before letting up.
“A sharp rise in temperature on Wednesday added to the already difficult weather conditions, and forecasters on Thursday predicted that the dust, heat wave and high humidity would only taper off Saturday evening.
“By its second day, the massive sandstorm broke both electricity usage and air pollution records across the country. According to figures announced by the Israel Electric Corporation, power usage broke an all-time record as Israelis tried to keep cool — surpassing an earlier all-time high set during a heat wave last month.
“By Wednesday afternoon, consumption was 12,867 megawatts, up from the 12,800-megawatt record set during a week of soaring temperatures in early August.” (The Times of Israel, Sept. 10, 2015).
If the sharav tapers off Saturday evening as expected, that would make it Sunday by rabbinic count – just in time to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. The New Year - 5776, begins at sundown on September 13.
Lonnie C. Mings
Christian Friends of Israel - Jerusalem