Senior IDF official explains the Syrian war on our northern border
As the Syrian Civil War continues to garner worldwide attention and newspaper headlines, we in the IDF joined a senior official for an exclusive tour of our northern border. Here’s what we learned about the situation in the Syrian Golan and how it affects us.
Before the conflict
In 2011, the population of the Syrian Golan numbered 1.2 million. The Syrian side of the border was fully functional with its farms, UN bases, towns and forests. The small fence that separated the Israeli and Syrian sides of the Golan mainly operated as a demarcator of the border.
March 2011, the Syrian Civil War broke out as an armed conflict between Syrian military forces and civilian rebel groups. Today, the border fence is no longer the same. Not only is it larger, stronger and newly-renovated, there is a bloody war waging on its other side.
The crisis includes heavy fighting between multiple groups, each with their own goals and agendas. “There are two sides fighting here, the regime and the rebels. But both sides are broken down into many more groups,” explains the official.
The Syrian regime of President al-Assad is represented by the Syrian military, along with local militias that are loyal to Assad, Iran’s Quds Force, and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. Quds Force and Hezbollah forces are mostly on the defensive on the Syrian Golan, fending off rebel attacks.
The rebels themselves can be broken down into three groups: Pragmatics, Salafists, and global jihadists. The pragmatics started the revolution in the form of protests against the government. Their position is firmly anti-Assad, but not anti-Israel. Though the moderates represent the majority of Syrian rebel groups, they have a smaller presence in the Syrian Golan.
Global jihadis on our border
The largest global jihadist groups operating in the Syrian Golan are Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (“the Front for the Conquest of the Levant,” formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) and Shuhada al-Yarmouk. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is allied with the radical terror group Al-Qaeda, and took over large parts of the border in 2014 by coordinating with other rebel groups. Like ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was originally a faction of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but later broke from the group. “Though they recently changed their name and flag in order to distance themselves further from Al-Qaeda,” says the IDF official, “I doubt there will be
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