Israel's Future War with Syria

Revised April 24, 2001

This is a speculative scenario, based on Bible prophecy and an observation of current situations and trends. One thing is certain, however: war with Syria, and the destruction of Damascus, is inevitable, because the prophets of God have foretold it. Lebanon, which is a puppet state of Syria, figures largely in the situation, as do Jordan, Iraq, and the Palestinians.

For decades, Syria has technically been in a state of war with Israel. Despite the occasional word from Damascus about "peace talks" between Syria and Israel, the Syrians have never demonstrated in any tangible way that they want genuine peace with Israel. The hateful invective that has continually spewed from Damascus is a more reliable indicator of their actual intentions. They still regard all of the land of Israel as a part of their dream of "Greater Syria," and any "peace talks" are just a tactical step towards that objective. They wish to regain the Golan Heights, which provides a vastly superior strategic position from which to launch another attack on Israel. It would be militarily very foolish for Israel to cede the Golan Heights to them. In addition, that region, called "Bashan" in the Bible, has a rich history for the Jewish people.

Since Bashar Assad took over power from his late father Hafez, some had supposed that the Western-educated Bashar would take a more enlightened policy towards Israel. Hafez Assad was a brutal dictator who ruled by terrorizing Syria's citizens. Though Bashar has made some token overtures to his citizens to loosen the reigns of oppression, his stance towards Israel is no less harsh than his father. In fact, at a recent Arab summit held in Amman, Assad characterized the Israeli people as "worse than the Nazis." The Syrians have consistently been among the most extreme nations in expressing hatred for Israel, and Bashar Assad's ascension to power has done nothing to moderate that.

The Golan Heights, bordering the eastern shore of the Biblical Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret), was captured by Israel in the Six Day War in June 1967. It is a critical buffer zone and tactical area for the defense of Israel against attacks by Syria. Prior to 1967, the Golan Heights was the source of sniper attacks on the fishermen of Lake Kinneret, and also a base for terrorist raids into Israel. It was also the launching pad for Syria's military attempts to eliminate what they have called "the hated Zionist entity."

Israel has a small standing army and a large reserve army, and in the event of an invasion by Syria or other countries needs a 1-2 day window for mobilization of those reserves. Without the Golan, Israel could easily be overrun in a surprise attack and cut in two by an enemy army before the mobilized troops would be ready.

Other factors that complicate the situation include the presence of the Hezbollah terrorist organization in southern Lebanon. Funded and supplied by Iran, this group that has vowed the destruction of Israel is allowed by Syria to operate freely north of the border with Israel. Syria has been using this as a bargaining chip in its plans to regain the Golan Heights. When Ehud Barak withdrew the IDF from the buffer zone in Southern Lebanon, the allowed their ally there the South Lebanon Army to be overrun by Hezbollah. This allowed Hezbollah to move its operations all the way down to the border with Israel. The government of Lebanon, largely controlled by Damascus, takes a hand-off approach to Hezbollah. Essentially, Hezbollah comprises the quasi-government and military force in southern Lebanon.

Now that Israel has unilaterally withdrawn from the "buffer zone" in southern Lebanon, Syria has little incentive to prevent attacks by Hezbollah into the Galilee region. When Israel moved its troops out of Lebanon, instead of being pleased, Syria was actually displeased because it lost its primary leverage in the potential Golan negotiations. Also, they lost a pretext for continued aggressive stance towards Israel.

When Barak withdrew the Israel army from south Lebanon, he announced a zero tolerance policy regarding Hezbollah attacks in northern Israel. Despite some sporadic incidents, so far that policy appears to have caused Syria and Hezbollah to exercise restraint. But it is only a matter of time before Bashar Assad overplays his hand permits intensified Hezbollah raids and shelling against the towns in northern Israel. Bashir's father knew just how far he could push Israel before a serious response was emitted. However, it is probably that in youthful brashness and overconfidence, Bashar will overplay his hand and push Israel too far.

If the Hezbollah activity subsides for a period, it is likely to resume again. Syria will falsely insist it has no responsibility for the actions of Hezbollah, and will eventually intensify its (and Iran's) war by proxy against Israel in Lebanon through the Hezbollah terrorists. Israel will give Syria a series of ultimatums regarding Hezbollah, holding Syria responsible for the attacks, but Syria will do nothing to rein in Hezbollah.

The acute water shortage in the region will also exacerbate the tensions between the two countries. As the situation becomes critical, this could be the issue that will lead to war. Both Israel and Syria are nearing a crisis stage with insufficient water supplies. Israel continues to lower the "red line" on Lake Kinneret, the line below which they do not allow the level of the lake to fall, because of the critical situation. Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Project which built the new Atatürk Dam on the Euphrates River has further decreased Syria's water supply. If Syria regains the Golan, they would be a temptingly short distance from a major water source they desire, Lake Kinneret. A return to the 1967 lines would put them only 10 meters from the shore.

As tensions escalate, Israel will be forced to take strong military action against the Syrian forces arrayed in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley. Syria's conventional army is still very substantial, though not as formidable as in the days when they were equipped by the Soviet Union. It may be that Assad will be foolish enough to think that he can win a ground war with Israel. However, if the situation escalates to the boiling point where war seems inevitable, it is almost certain that other Arab and Muslim states will pledge their solidarity with Syria and Lebanon against Israel. A full-fledged war will break out between Israel and Syria (with other countries probably involved), and the result will be the destruction of Damascus, perhaps by nuclear weapons. (Isaiah 17:1, Zechariah 9:1-4 - see the next chapter for details)

There are 2 scenarios that might lead to this. (1) Israel is caught by surprise by the attack, and because of the small geographical area of Israel, Syria's troops quickly get to the point where they are threatening Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel believes its very existence is peril, and in panic they unleash their nuclear arsenal on Damascus. Or, (2) as the war intensifies, Syria, because of its inferiority in military forces, makes the fateful decision of responding in a shockingly and foolishly disproportionate manner by shelling Israel cities with chemical and/or biological weapons. Israel, enraged that weapons of mass destruction have been introduced and fearing for the very survival of the country, responds in kind by bombing Damascus with nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Hezbollah will open another front on the Lebanon border, and will be met with an extremely forceful response. Israel will push them back to a point between Tyre and Sidon (biblical Zarephath) which will become the new border of Israel after the war.

Jordan will have a significant involvement as well, joining forces with Iraq, who will invade Israel through Jordanian territory over the Jordan River. "Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot." (Psalms 83:8 NIV) Even Iraq has joined them (the anti-Israel military coalition described there) to lend strength to Jordan! This means that something drastic has to happen in Jordan before then to change their disposition towards Israel. Perhaps this would be a coup of the majority Palestinian population against the ruling Hashemite family of King Abdullah. This kind of coup has been one of the PLO's stated goals for decades.

During this time, the Arafat and the Palestinians will not be sitting idly by. Anticipating a potential defeat of Israel, the Palestinians will have joined with Syria in declaring war on Israel, supposing to capture Jerusalem and establish their state. After fierce fighting, their forces will be crushed, and many of the people will flee. When Damascus is destroyed, the Palestinians will realize too late they made a horrible mistake, that "its hopes are withered". (Zechariah 9:5) Israel will regain the West Bank and the Gaza strip, and promptly annex it. "Gaza will lose her king" (Zechariah 9:5), meaning that Arafat or his successor perish. These events will cause international uproar against Israel. Massive numbers of Arabs will leave Israel, never to return.

It may be that during the battles with Syria and Jordan, an errant bombing run demolishes the Dome of the Rock, the Moslem mosque that stands on the Temple Mount. (Zechariah 4:6-7) Or perhaps some other Providential act will cause its destruction. In any event, Israel's crushing defeat of the surrounding Arab nations will effectively remove them from being a force in objecting to the building of the Temple. Some of the Orthodox will view these events as a sign from God that they are to begin rebuilding the Temple of the Lord. In the aftermath of the war, Israel will take control of the Temple Mount for the first time in many centuries, and this also causes much outrage among the nations.

Because of Israel's nuclear attack on Damascus, it will become a pariah among the nations. Isaiah uses the imagery that its national status will become like an emaciated man. (Isaiah 17:4) He also describes the outbreak of intense criticism of Israel: "Oh, the raging of many nations-- they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples-- they roar like the roaring of great waters!" (Isaiah 17:12 NIV)

Here's what may happen: Israel will resist fierce international pressure and steadfastly refuse to relinquish the territory gained through the war, and with construction beginning on the Temple Mount. In response, the United Nations will flex its new muscles to intervene in regional disputes. This may eventually lead to the formulation of the coalition of military forces described in Ezekiel 38 & 39 coming against Israel .

Though we will not examine that prophecy in detail, we theorize that this coalition is formed in the wake of the Israel/Syria war. Under the pretext of punitive measures, the UN could authorize Russia to lead the multinational invasion force. The nations involved are Russia, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and probably Turkey and Germany and some European nations. Notably absent from this coalition are Iraq, and Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, presumably because they were already soundly defeated and enfeebled by Israel. This invading force will be utterly wiped out, according to the Lord.

For more detailed examination of the Bible prophecies regarding the future war described in this article, see War on the Horizon.

Bob Westbrook 4/24/01