Forgotten horror

A picture taken from the Israeli annexed Golan Heights shows smoke rising following an explosion in a Syrian village near the Israeli border on May 7, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

A dramatic weekend in Syria, punctuated by an Israeli airstrike against Syrian army positions near Damascus, has generated a flurry of responses by various nations and parties, all seeking to put their spin on events.

Syria’s state media and other sympathetic outlets had a field day with the attack, largely forgetting earlier promises to respond to such violations of the country’s sovereignty. Some of the spin was aimed at playing down its significance, via footage of the destroyed facilities and loud claims that the area was used for agricultural production.

Syria did respond on the Golan Heights, but in a sideways fashion, namely by hinting that Palestinian groups would now be allowed to launch attacks against Israeli-occupied territory.

The first developments on this front have been muted, however, and Israel said a few mortar rounds were stray, accidental shots. Damascus has allowed Palestinian groups to tell the media about the green light they have to launch attacks – however, the actual military capabilities of such groups, which have been effectively sidelined for decades, is in considerable doubt.

Russia and Iran offered the expected condemnations of the Israeli attack, while Tehran apparently ignored earlier statements by officials, claiming that any attack on Syria would be considered an attack on the Islamic Republic.

Hezbollah also offered condemnations, but without committing itself to any response, while Israel said loudly it had no intention of “interfering” in the war raging in Syria between the regime and rebels. Lebanon also condemned the incident, while playing down the fact its airspace was used to launch the attack.

All of the above should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, since the true “news” in the wake of the Israeli bombing comes in the statements out of the United States, from President Barack Obama down, that Washington is seeking “common ground” at an upcoming meeting between Russian and American officials. The massive fireball that lit up the night sky in Damascus a few days ago – leading to a wave of speculation, angry denials and other commentary – has been overshadowed by a few comments by Secretary of State John Kerry, who talked about the common interests shared by Washington and Russia when it comes to Syria.

Some people might be fond of talking about the U.S.’ supposed drive to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, but until now there are only voices in Congress talking about the need to provide more support for the Syrian opposition. Otherwise, the atmosphere in Washington appears to be one of compromise and deal-making with Moscow, and it would appear no such agreement will serve the interests of the Syrian people.

Photos of the lifeless bodies of hundreds of Syrians in the town of Banias, which appeared just before the Israeli strike, have been largely forgotten by the global community, which is perhaps the most telling sign of where Syria stands in its national nightmare.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 08, 2013, on page 7.




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