Syria massacres 'rebels,' Israel fears violence will cross border

Sunday, June 12, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Syrian forces brutally attacked a town in the north of the country on Sunday, accusing local residents of being "rebels" after they joined nationwide demonstrations demanding democratic freedoms.

Tens of thousands of residents of Jisr al-Shughour fled into neighboring Turkey after an estimated 150 tanks and several helicopter gunships invaded the town and began firing indiscriminately.

It is believed that at least 30 civilians have been killed in the fighting. The refugees in Turkey also described being beaten and raped at the hands of the government soldiers.

The fighting in Jisr al-Shaghour is only the latest in a string of atrocities that have marked the Syrian movement for open democracy, which was sparked by Egypt's own democratic revolution earlier this year.

While Western governments have expressed muted condemnation, many Israelis are left wondering why the international community is not reacting more strongly. After all, when Israel responds to Palestinian terror in a far more restrained manner, it is a matter for UN Security Council resolutions and widespread criticism.

The response to the Syrian massacres has paled in comparison to the responses to Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon, the 2009 incursion into Gaza and the 2010 interception of a flotilla trying to break the Gaza maritime blockade.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern in Israel that as the situation in Syria intensifies, and international pressure slowly ramps up on Damascus, the ruling regime of dictator Bashar Assad could lash out at Israel as a last resort.

If Assad feels he is going down and has nothing left to lose, he may want to secure a legacy for himself by launching one final massive attack on Israel, according to some intelligence assessments.

Syria has an arsenal of tens of thousands of ballistic missiles that can reach every corner of Israel. It also has an extensive supply of chemical warheads to fit on those missiles.

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