An ongoing push against Hezbollah in Syria
[Ynet] With tensions in the Gulf rising, Iran is accelerating efforts to create a second front against Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan for its proxy terror group to use when an attack on the Jewish state would best suit their interests in their conflict with the United States.
The strike Wednesday attributed to Israel in Tel Haraa in southern Syria should be seen the context of recent events that include a mysterious murder of a Druze resident of the area and an earlier strike in the same location.
Syrian media reported earlier this week of a kaboom that killed Mash'hur Zeidan, a Druze resident of the village of Hadar in southern Syria, who was a known operative of the Leb-based Hezbollah terror group. He and his son died late Sunday night near the village of Sasa, 40 kilometers south of Damascus.
It is no secret that Israel is actively attempting to foil any Hezbollah efforts of entrenchment on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, close to the ceasefire line reached after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The attack on Tel Haraa early Wednesday came about six weeks after a similar attack on this region which is known to have pro-Iran
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militias stationed in it.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack caused both fatalities and damage, and was directed at Syrian regime forces as well as foreign militias loyal to Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir
Terror of Aleppo ...
Iran has been investing efforts in building a terror infrastructure close to the Syrian border with Israel and their forces on the ground are mostly Hezbollah operatives.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is banned from setting up a presence in the area following an agreement reached with the intervention of Russia, which ensures there are no Iranian forces less than 80 kilometers from the border.
Russian military police are enforcing the agreement, which is why Qasem Soleimani, who is in charge of Iran's troop deployment in Syria, has subcontracted to Hezbollah the task of creating infrastructure in the area. This infrastructure includes observation posts and intelligence installations that would support future Iranian-inspired Hezbollah attacks on Israel.
The escalating tension in the Persian Gulf may be putting pressure on Iran to accelerate its efforts to establish a front on the Golan Heights ready for at a time beneficial to Tehran.
Tel Haraa has been used by the Syrian army for many years to observe the Israeli side of the Golan, including with the use of electronic surveillance. A Syrian military base is also located there, providing support to the Iranian-backed forces in the area.
Syria took back the base and its surroundings from rebel forces last year, with the help of the Russian military and with the understanding that only Syrian troops were allowed in.
Iranian-backed militias - including Hezbollah - were to be redeployed at least 80 kilometers away. Yet the attacks attributed to Israel, which has said it will not allow Iran to set up shop on the Syrian side of the border, continue.
According to Phillip Smyth, the Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Hezbollah doesn’t want to have to execute an entire war on its own in southern Syria. It’s much easier to apply plausible deniability and harder to bust a Hezbollah cell if they are locals,” he told The Jerusalem Post, adding that they have taken a slightly different approach and being very pragmatic in terms of who they recruit.
Zidan, a Druze resident from the village of Hadar, is believed to have been a senior Hezbollah operative responsible for recruiting volunteers from villages near the border with Israel as part of Hezbollah’s Golan File.
Senior intelligence officers in the IDF’s Northern Command said that Hezbollah’s Golan Project began last summer following the reconquering of the Syrian Golan by regime troops. Operatives involved in the clandestine file have weaponry available from the civil war and if needed, will receive additional weaponry from Lebanon or existing arsenals kept by Hezbollah and Iran.
“Hezbollah knows that Israel is watching, so they are being much more covert than in the past,” Smyth said, adding that they are using more local forces rather than sending brigades of Lebanese fighters to the area.
Military success in Syria has also allowed Hezbollah to redeploy senior operatives and troops to the area as well as southern Lebanon. The group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has said as much himself in a speech in mid-July.
“We are present in every area that we used to be. We are still there, but we don’t need to be there in large numbers as long as there is no practical need,” he said, adding that “if there was a need to return, all those who were there would go back.”
According to David Daoud, a research analyst on Hezbollah and Lebanon at United Against Nuclear Iran, the uptick in Israeli strikes in the area is because “there has been increased Hezbollah presence.”
In mid-March US President Donald Trump announced the formal recognition of the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory, handing Hezbollah a present for their recruitment in the area.
“Recognition of the Golan creates common ground for different factions to agree upon - the same applies to the embassy move, and the ‘deal of the century,” Daoud said, adding that “Different regional groups or axes that might not otherwise agree now have something in common.”
Smyth told The Post that while “Trump’s statement has sent some signals to Iran,” Tehran has “upped the ante because of the situation on the ground, not because of Trump’s statement. They know that their goals will outlast the Trump administration. But if it rallies the troops, they will use it. They are very pragmatic.”
While the “Iranians have been following the same program in southern Syria for years, now they're trying to secure and resecure their gains,” Smyth said. “There’s a lot more opportunity, it’s a net gain no matter how you look at it.”
The attack on Tel Haara on Wednesday was not the first.
The site has been used by the Syrian army for years to observe Israeli movement, and since the Assad regime re-took the area from rebels last summer, there have been several strikes on the site blamed on Israel.
While the base, which has electronic surveillance capabilities, was supposed to be manned solely by regime troops, pro-Iranian militias including Hezbollah are known to be stationed in it.
According to Smyth, Hezbollah and Iran “have been at the forefront of using electronic means to counter their foes, its existed for decades and it wouldn’t shock me if they were testing the waters there.”
The opportunity was there for the taking.
The retaking of the Syrian Golan by Assad also forced Israel to end Operation Good Neighbor, where Israel provided humanitarian and, according to foreign reports, military aid to rebels in the Syrian Golan.
Israel also treated thousands of Syrians who arrived at the border,both combatants and civilians. According to officials some 70% of the wounded treated by Israel were men of fighting age while the other 30% were women and children.
A year later, “times have changed,” Smyth told the Post. “Not everyone has switched over but if your stuck in Syria and you have no options...and you can’t run into Israel...you have to back the strongest horse.”
And that’s Hezbollah.
|Posted by trailing wife 2019-07-26 00:00||
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