Russians let Hizballah into Daraa, breaking their promise to Israel
On Wednesday, Jan. 27 a large Hizballah force entered the southern Syrian town of Daraa, a critically dangerous event for Israel’s security. The way to the town, which lies near the Jordanian border and across from the Israeli Golan, was opened before Hizballah by none other than Russian forces. This was a blatant violation of President Vladimir Putin’s commitments to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah not to permit Iranian and Iran-backed forces, such as Hizballah and Iraqi and Afghani Shiite militias, reach their borders in consequence of Russia’s military intervention in the Syria war.
Daraa is just 32 km from the southern Golan and 12 km from the Jordanian border. Hizballah forces in this town are therefore within easy striking distance from northern Israeli and Jordan.
What happened Wednesday was that a sizeable Hizballah contingent made it into Daraa, the day after a Syrian unit under the command of Russian officers captured the town of Sheikh Maskin, cutting off rebel forces east of Daraa from their comrades to the west.
Control of Sheikh Maskin is the key to the crossroads leading to Damascus in the north, the Druze Mountain town of es-Suwaida in the east, and Quneitra on Golan opposite Israel’s northern defenses.
The battle for Sheikh Maskin was the first in the Syrian conflict to be directly fought under Russian command. Its fall sparked accounts of Russian officers commanding Syrian troops in different parts of Syria.
So far, Israel has not reacted to the Hizballah force’s advance, notwithstanding public statements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that this would never be allowed to happen.
DEBKAfile’s military sources explain this reticence by a persistent misreading of the Syrian crisis in the higher ranks of the Israeli defense establishment. Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, who has a good grasp of its complexities, is a lone voice against the defense minister and IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot
In Amman, however, King Abdullah and his generals signified both alarm and fury. DEBKAfile’s sources report that Wednesday morning, the king shot off an urgent message to President Putin demanding an explanation for the Russian officers’ action in opening the door of Daraa to hostile Hizballah fighters.
Jordan has fought Hizballah and its conspiracies for three years, ever since its security forces seized an arms cache
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