Israel–Syria relations

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Israel–Syria relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Syria



Israel–Syria relations refers to diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and Syria. Diplomatic ties have not been established since the creation of both countries in the mid-20th century, and the countries have fought three major wars, which are the 1948 Arab Israeli War in 1948, the Six-Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, later also being involved in the Lebanese Civil War and the 1982 Lebanon War. Both countries do allow a limited trade of apples for the Golan Druze villages, located on both sides of the 1973 ceasefire line. Israel also has allowed academic study by Golan Druze from the Israeli-controlled side in Damascus universities, though the procedure has been greatly reduced as a result of the Syrian civil war.



Ceasefire line

Since the 1949 Armistice Agreements, relations between Israel and Syria have been characterized by periods of hostility; ceasefire talks, sometimes through intermediaries; and disengagement agreements, such as the 1974 Israeli–Syrian disengagement agreement. In 1949, an Israeli–Syrian peace treaty was negotiated with the short-lived Syrian government of Husni al-Za'im.

Prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, intermittent hostilities centered on the Demilitarized Zones, water issues and shelling and infiltration from the Golan Heights. Since the war, the focus of negotiations has been "land for peace," in particular a demand that Israel return the Golan Heights to Syria along with Syrian recognition of Israel and establishment of peaceful relations with it, as stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 242. And yet, in the US-brokered Syrian–Israeli talks during the 1990s, Syria demanded that Israeli future withdrawal would be to the "June 4, 1967 Lines", namely west of the former British Mandate border with Syria.[1] Syria attempted to recover the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War, but was unsuccessful, only recovering a small part of it in the 1974 disengagement agreement, while committing to distance its armed forces further eastwards compared with their 1967–1973 positions.

During Lebanese civil war[edit]

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to drive out the PLO. Syria sent ground and air forces to assist the Lebanese, but these were largely routed by the Israelis. Syria continued to support Lebanese resistance, leading up to Israel's withdrawal in 2000.

1990s peace efforts[edit]

The first high-level public talks aimed at a permanent resolution of the conflict between Israel and Syria were held at and after the multilateral Madrid Conference of 1991. Throughout the 1990s several Israeli governments negotiated with Syria's president Hafez Al-Assad. While serious progress was made, they were unsuccessful.

During Damascus spring: 2000–2005[edit]

High points of hostility in the 2000s included the Ain es Saheb airstrike (an Israeli Air Force mission against Palestinian militants inside Syria) in 2003 and Operation Orchard (an Israeli air and commando mission against Syria's alleged nuclear program) in 2007.

Syrian alliance with Iran: 2006–present[edit]

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Syria threatened to enter the war on Hezbollah's side, provided support to Hezbollah, and allowed Iran to ship supplies to Hezbollah through its territory. Later, Turkey organized peace talks between the two countries, but Syria later withdrew in response to the 2008–2009 Gaza War.

In 2010, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Israel of avoiding peace, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem warned that in the event of a future war, Israeli cities would be targeted by Syrian missiles. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded by saying that the Syrian military would be defeated in a war with Israel, and Assad and his family would be forced from power. Lieberman also advised Syria to let go of the demand for the Golan Heights.[2] For several months in 2010 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel engaged in secret, American-brokered discussions with Syria.[3]

During Syrian civil war[edit]

In January 2012, the IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz stated that Israel would be willing to take in Alawite refugees, if the situation deteriorated for them in Syria, as a result of a revolution.[4]

In November 2012, the Syrian Government called Israel's actions against the Palestinian National Authority during the Operation Pillar of Cloud, "barbaric, reprehensible crimes" and called on the international community to pressure Israel into halting its strikes.[5]

On 3 November 2012, three Syrian tanks entered the Golan Heights, a demilitarized zone. It was the first time since the Yom Kippur War ended in 1973. Israel complained to the UN peacekeepers in the area.[6][7] There have also been several cross-border shooting incidents in the Golan Heights since the war in Syria erupted.[8]

On 11 November 2012, Israeli tanks fired mortar shells into Syrian territory after a Syrian mortar shell hit an IDF post in the Golan Heights. No casualties were reported in either incident. IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said, "We answered with a warning shot towards Syrian areas. We understand this was a mistake and was not meant to target Israel and then that is why we fired a warning shot in retaliation."[9]

On 30 January 2013, war planes were reported to have attacked deep within Syrian territory – an alleged Israeli air force operation. The United States believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry outside Damascus that was going to be given to the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon, but Syrian authorities denied this.[10] On 5 May 2013, Syrian state media reported "Israeli airstrikes" targeting military positions in Damascus, following bombing in Rif Dimashq governorate. They reportedly struck a research center and caused casualties. The US president, Barack Obama, commented that Israel "has to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah."[11]

US officials said that Israel carried out a strike on 5 July 2013 against supplies of P-800 Oniks missiles in Latakia, Syria. The strike was reportedly carried out by a Dolphin-class submarine.[12]

Economic relations[edit]

Apple exports to Syria at Quneitra crossing, February 2011

Since 2004, Israel has exported apples to Syria through the Quneitra crossing. In 2010, some 10,000 tons of apples grown by Druze farmers in the Golan Heights were sent to Syria.[13] Israeli minister Ayoub Kara called for an agreement with Syria over the supply of water to towns in the Golan Heights. Today, ten percent of the water in the Druze town of Majdal Shams is supplied by Syria, from the Ein al-Toufah spring. This arrangement has been in place for 25 years.[14]

Tourism and cultural exchange[edit]

In 2010, the Israeli government authorized a pilgrimage to Syria by a group of 300 Druze citizens of Israel interested in visiting religious sites there.[15] A group of dancers from five Druze villages in Israel was sent to Aleppo to perform in a dabka competition.[16] Civilians are permitted to cross the border at Quneitra for university studies and marriage. Syrian citizens of the Golan are entitled to free tuition, books and lodging.[17] Since 1993, 67 Syrian brides have crossed into the Golan Heights and 11 brides from Golan have crossed into Syria.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Frederic C. Hof, "Mapping Peace between Syria and Israel", United States Institute of Peace, Washington D.C. 2009
  2. ^ FM: If Syria provokes Israel, Assad will be out of power
  3. ^ New York Times, 12 October 2012
  4. ^ Gantz: Israel prepared to absorb Alawite refugeesJerusalem Post, By LAHAV HARKOV01/10/2012 19:33
  5. ^ Sabbagh, H (14 November 2012). "Syrian Government Denounces Barbaric Israeli Crimes against Palestinian People in Gaza". Syrian Arab News Agency. Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Surk, Barbara (3 November 2012). "Syrian Tanks Enter Demilitarized Israeli Frontier". ABC News. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Сиријски тенкови на Голанској висоравни [Syrian tanks on the Golan Heights] (in Serbian). Radio Television of Serbia. 3 November 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (11 November 2012). "Israel fires warning shots into Syria as violence escalates in Gaza". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "Arms Shipment Was Target as Israel Bombed Syria, U.S. Says". New York Times. 
  11. ^ "Israel launches more 'airstrikes' in Syria". Al Jazeera. 5 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  12. ^,7340,L-4404541,00.html
  13. ^ Israeli trucks cross into Syria in annual 'apple invasion'
  14. ^ Israeli Druze minister: Syria should give water to Golan towns
  15. ^ Israeli Druze to go on historic visit to Syria
  16. ^ Hebrew press sees thaw in Syria-Israel relations
  17. ^ Susan Taylor Martin (18 February 2007). "Golan families dream of reunion". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  18. ^ One way ticket for Druze Syrian Brides

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]