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Israel and al-Qaeda open up new front in Golan Heights to avenge Syria’s gains in Deir ez-Zor

Golan Heights
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Adam Garrie |

Syria’s total liberation of Deir ez-Zor city has been a short-lived victory as Israel and al-Qaeda opened up a new front in blitzkrieg-like fashion in the Golan Heights. The assault began when a combination of fighters from the FSA and the al-Qaeda group Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (still commonly referred to as the al-Nusra Front) launched a massive offensive on Hader, a town held by the Syrian Arab Army.

The jihadists were aiding by artillery fire from the armed forces of the Israeli regime. In many ways, this is a case of déjà vu when it comes to the tactics of Syria’s enemies. In the winter of 2016, just as the Syrian Arab Army liberated all of Aleppo city after a protracted battle against al-Qaeda, Daesh launched a large offensive and re-took the previously liberated central Syrian town of Palmyra.

Israel continues to test Russian patience as while Russia certainly does not want conflict with Israel, Russia also does not want continued instability in any part of western Syria, including in the south-west.

The attacks were clearly designed to lower Syrian morale after a substantial victory elsewhere. Today’s assault was clearly coordinated to open up a new front in the south-west of the country, just as Syrian troops in the east are making a final push to the Iraqi border where they plan to greet allied Iraqi troops who have just secured the al-Qaim border crossing from Daesh.

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The new front is possibly the most challenging threat to Syria at this time. With US Kurdish proxies in the north offset by Turkish troops and Turkish proxies who are also operating in the north of Syria, the unrelenting Israeli/al-Qaeda/FSA assault on the Golan Heights now poses a very real threat in a region that Syria has had mixed success in pacifying over the last year.

From a geopolitical point of view, the battle in the Golan Heights is also far more dangerous than the situation in the north. Because Turkey which is still technically a NATO member refuses to allow further Kurdish advances in the north and with Russia playing a balancing act between Turkey and the Kurds, which by extrapolation means between Turkey and the United States, the northern front will likely be a war of US proxies versus Turkish proxies that will likely end up becoming a temporarily frozen conflict.

The vast majority of Syrians are well aware that there is open battlefield collusion between Israeli troops and jihadists in the Golan Heights. This has been the case for some time now, but it is becoming increasingly obvious to all observers.

The freezing of the northern fronts will be especially pertinent as Russia has an interest in enacting ‘damage control’ between the Kurds and Turks so as to avoid further post-Daesh conflicts in the region. By contrast, every major power, including Russia, has thus far been reticent to overtly reprimand Israel for its multiple illegal incursions into Syria, all of which either tacitly or directly favor jihadist groups, primarily al-Qaeda affiliates.

Because of this, Syria is more ‘on its own’ in respect of the Golan Heights front, even though this could possibly change. The best strategy would be for Syrian Arab Army troops in the region to be backed up by Hezbollah fighters and Iranian military advisors who have a keen interest in restraining expansionist Israeli aggression throughout the region. 

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On the flip side of this, however, there is a danger that a numerous Hezbollah presence in the region would only encourage more Israeli aggression. An elegant solution to this would be to provide all Hezbollah fighters and Iranian advisors with Syrian Arab Army uniforms. As Syria holds that any attack on a Syrian ally inside Syria’s borders will be treated with the same severity as an attack on Syrian troops, there is a perfectly ethical precedent for effectively deputizing Hezbollah fighters and others into the Syrian Arab Army.

As Syria holds that any attack on a Syrian ally inside Syria’s borders will be treated with the same severity as an attack on Syrian troops, there is a perfectly ethical precedent for effectively deputizing Hezbollah fighters and others into the Syrian Arab Army.

Israel could still be further emboldened in its aggressive tactics as Israel frequently targets uniformed Syrian Arab Army troops, but a unity front from the Syrian side is still important in this context. Israel which has illegally occupied part of Syria’s Golan Heights since 1967, is clearly looking to establish a foothold further into Syrian territory, thus threatening Syria’s territorial unity with further illegal annexation.

In a typically Israeli method of duplicity and deception, the Israeli regime claims that it may send in its regular forces to Hader to ‘fight’ al-Qaeda, even though, Israeli artillery shelling helped open up the new front that al-Qaeda has exploited. 

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The vast majority of Syrians are well aware that there is open battlefield collusion between Israeli troops and jihadists in the Golan Heights. This has been the case for some time now, but it is becoming increasingly obvious to all observers. Syria now has little choice but to either retreat or build up a meaningful regrouping of its troops and allies and fight Israeli backed al-Qaeda and FSA forces in Hader and the rest of the Golan Heights.

Just as the Syrian Arab Army liberated all of Aleppo city after a protracted battle against al-Qaeda, Daesh launched a large offensive and re-took the previously liberated central Syrian town of Palmyra.

If Syria shows that it can be successful against the onslaught, as it has in the past in respect of south-western Syria, it could even motivate Russia to make the all-important phone call to Tel Aviv, explaining to Israel that it must restrain itself and retreat from the region, knowing that any fight would be a protracted one.

If Israel will listen to anyone it may just be Russia. Israel continues to test Russian patience as while Russia certainly does not want conflict with Israel, Russia also does not want continued instability in any part of western Syria, including in the south-west. This is Syria’s only hope to pacify what has become the most dangerous front in what remains of the conflict.

Adam Garrie is the managing editor at The Duran and is a frequent guest on RT, Press TV, and Digital Divides. He is an expert on Asia/Eurasian, Middle Eastern, Russian and US history and politics. He tweets:@adamgarriereal..The views expressed are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.


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