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AFP

Israel plans Syria buffer zone, report says

Israeli tanks

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu has been presented with a plan to establish a buffer zone within Syria to protect itself from rebels, The Sunday Times reported Sunday.

“We’ve presented prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] with a comprehensive plan to defend Israel’s border after, or perhaps before, the fall of [Bashar al-] Assad’s regime,” a security source told the British newspaper.

“A buffer zone set up with the co-operation of local villagers lies at the heart of the plan. If the country remains unstable we might have to stay there for years.”

The report added that Israeli military planners fear that with the withdrawal of the Syrian army from areas along the country’s Golan border with Syria, Islamist rebels could begin mortar and rocket attacks on the Jewish State.

Israel has already started building a security fence from “Mount Avital south to the point where the Israeli, Syrian and Jordanian borders meet on the southern Golan Heights.”

"We knew then that there was a strongman in Damascus. But not anymore. The new wall will be good when it’s ready but without the buffer zone mortar and rocket attacks on Israel would be a daily event," the source told the paper.

In past months Israeli forces have strengthened their deployment in the Golan region amid limited shelling cross-border shelling.

In a dramatic development last week, Syria said Israeli air strikes hit a weapons research center near Damascus and threatened to retaliate.

Israel has not commented on the reports, but a US official said an Israeli raid struck surface-to-air missiles and a nearby military complex on the capital's outskirts.

Israeli Merkava tanks take up position in the Golan Heights. (Jack Guez)

A buffer zone set up with the co-operation of local villagers lies at the heart of the plan.