No sooner had Palestinian rocket fire – and retaliatory Israeli air strikes over the Gaza Strip – fallen silent on Wednesday, May 30, when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were on the move to their next conflict sector, the Golan. The jarring clamor of the Gaza confrontation had muffled important news from Damascus: A Syrian military source had revealed that an elite Syrian Arab brigade was heading for the border of Israeli Golan “to lead the Al Quneitra offensive.” He disclosed that the original orders to the 42nd Brigade-Ghiath Forces of the Syrian army’s elite 4th Division – to retake the Syrian-Jordanian Nasib crossing in southern Daraa – had been changed to “redeployment to the Al-Quneitra Governorate.” The 39th and 40th brigades would stay in the base town of Izra, said the Syrian source, ready to launch the offensive to take Nasib. Our sources report that Izra is also the secret seat of Iran’s military headquarters for eastern Syria.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources outline the background for this change of plan:
- On May 26, the US warned the combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah force massing at Izra that its planned offensive for reaching the Jordanian border would meet “firm and appropriate measures” – namely, attack from the closest US outpost at Al Tanf.
- By freezing the Daraa operation, the three allies put their plan to open up their access to the Jordanian and Iraqi borders on hold. Instead, they turned west to accomplish another of their objectives, one that would bring Israel within their sights.
- By going for Quneitra, they hoped to kill two birds with one stone: access Israel’s Golan border and also take down the Syrian rebel militias holding the Golan town. Tagged collectively as the “Salvation Army,” these militias include some of the largest rebel factions, including the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front Brigades.
- The Salvation Army’s commanders are in direct contact with the Israeli forces posted on the Golan and are mostly likely armed by Israel with weapons appropriate for a battle to ward off the Syria army, Iranian forces and Hizballah.
- In the Gaza Strip, the Iranians hid behind the skirts of the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, egging them on to ease some of Israel’s military pressure on their Syrian front. Now that the Gaza sector is beginning to cool for a while, the Iranians are turning their attention to their principal arena, Syria.
- The westward movement of the Syrian army’s 42nd Brigade from Izra to Quneitra fits in with the Russian-Iranian strategy articulated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 28, when he said: “It should only be the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic that stand on the Syrian border with Israel.” That statement was interpreted by Damascus and Tehran as letting them off the hook with Israel. His formula for the Syrian army alone holding the Israeli border exclusive of any foreign troops was seen by Iran and Hizballah as a license to run free in other parts of the country and lurk safely lurk behind the Syrian border deployment. Hence, Israel’s demand for Iran and its foreign minions to be removed from every inch of Syrian soil.
- Our sources report that the Israelis, Russians, Iranians Syrians and Hizballah are now waiting in suspense to see if US President Donald Trump extends to Quneitra his warning against their advance on the Jordanian border.
8. If Trump decides that the IDF can be safely left to grapple on its own with the looming Iranian-led threat to its northern border, then Quneitra will soon erupt as a major new flashpoint for hostilities between Israel and Tehran.