Al Qaeda’s thrust toward Golan: Israel, Saudis, Jordan share urgent need to stem the fast-multiplying peril
The defense squads of the Golan villages along the Israeli-Syrian border will be put through their paces by an exercise the IDF’s School for the Defense of Border Locales is conducting next week to build up their readiness and freshen their tactics against terrorist incursions.
debkafile military sources report that the IDF command is deeply concerned by developments of the last three weeks in the southern Syrian sectors facing the Israeli and Jordanian borders: The offensive the Syrian army launched Oct. 8 to clear rebel forces out of the areas adjacent to Golan – and draw a continuous line along those two borders – has been brought to a standstill.
That day too, in a lecture at Bar Ilan University, Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz postulated several dire scenarios of terrorist incidents blowing up into full-scale wars.
One of those incidents could start with an IDF army patrol on the Golan running over an explosive device, the second patrol unit rushing to its aid coming under anti-tank fire, and the battalion commander leading the rescue being abducted along with two other soldiers. The terrorist organization staging this ambush, a transparent reference to Al Qaeda and its affiliates, would use the commotion to raid civilian settlements.
Hizballah would then pitch in with rockets against Galilee towns. In no time, the first ambush would have ignited a multi-front war situation.
Four elements contributed to the halt in the Syrian army’s advance into the border regions, according to debkafile's military sources:
1. The Syrian high command decided that the current state of the conflict is to their advantage and there was nothing to gain from rushing at this time into large-scale assaults which could be costly in casualties.
2. Hizballah units have withdrawn from the Golan border with Israel and either returned to home bases in Lebanon or massed round Damascus for the final battle to win the rebel-held outskirts, now under siege. So the Syrian army has lost its main fighting ally.
3. Two militias allied with al Qaeda’s Nusra Front stand in the path of the Syrian advance and stopped it in its tracks. Our military sources name them as The Islamic Muthanna Movement and the Harmayn Brigade.
4. Nusra itself has been able to seize land along the bank of the Yarmuk River not far from the Syrian-Jordanian-Israel border intersection, creating another obstacle.
The alarm in the Israeli and Jordanian high commands over Al Qaeda’s looming encroachments is shared by Saudi Arabia, whose intelligence services now estimate that Al Qaeda and its multiple branches have massed some 6,000 fighting activists in Syria – 12 percent of them Saudi nationals.
Since more are pouring into the country all the time, intelligence experts in Riyadh calculate that the current number will double itself in the next six months. And that will not be the end: the 12,000 jihadists concentrated in Syria by next spring may have multiplied to 15-18,000 by the winter of 2014.
Most of them are streaming in from across the Muslim world including the Russian Caucasian.
Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who is in charge of the Saudi effort in Syria, has warned that Riyadh cannot afford to have al Qaeda hanging massively over its front, back and side doors – in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Egyptian Sinai, and threatening to overrun Lebanon and Jordan. A jihadi victory in Syria would boost al Qaeda in Iraq on its northern border.
Israel is in the same position.