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Spilling over

Syria’s civil war appears headed into dangerous territory ... the conflict is becoming less and less self-contained.

That an escalation could spill over into Turkey and Israel is a matter of concern regardless of how you view the regime of Bashar Assad.

For the second time in roughly the same number of days, Israel has responded after Syrian artillery shells hit near some of its military posts. In the latest exchange, the Israeli military said its tanks had made “direct hits” on Syrian guns.

Mistakes, like mortar shells landing over a border, happen in a civil war. But there’s also the possibility that Syria’s taking a gamble here, attempting to provoke Israel into additional military action. That’s the kind of event that could serve to distract attention away from what the Syria dictatorship is doing to its own people and could well serve as a rallying point for those militants and terrorists in the region to try to wipe Israel off the map.

“We will not allow our borders to be violated or our citizens to be fired upon,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said flatly.

Turkey, too, has found that it has had to respond to Syria as Syrian refugees pour across the border between the two countries to get away from the violence that rages there. Turkey is now said to have 120,000 registered Syrian refugees and thousands who aren’t on any list.

A larger, more regional war, should be something that even China and Russia, Assad’s patrons, should be extremely wary of. To date, the two have watered down any attempt to put significant pressure on Assad. But whatever benefits they see in keeping the present government in place in Syria has to be tempered by the vision of what happens if this conflict widens.

If China and Russia were looking for an excuse to act, the deal among many of Syria’s opposition groups could be the opening. Syria’s opposition has formed a new political body, electing as its president Moaz Khatib, a Sunni Muslim cleric who fled Syria this summer and is seen in international circles as a moderate.

Unless that tips the balance, the U.S. and others will probably have to counsel restraint on the part of Israel and Turkey to prevent them from acting to make a terrible situation worse.

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