Assad & Nasrallah Primed for anti-Israel Offensive in Golan and Galilee

On Monday April 7, Syrian President Bashar Assad summoned to his palace hundreds of elders of the diverse religious and ethnic groups inhabiting South Syria. Along with them, were the mayors of Quneitra on the Golan, as well as the towns of Deraa, where the revolt against his regime began three years ago, and Suweida in the Druze Mountains. He told them that the civil war is almost over – he gave it no more than another year – and the time had come to address the needs of the neglected populations of southern Syria.
As a first step, Assad promised manpower and resources for a campaign to bump up the membership of the ruling Syrian Ba'ath Party. This party has never been mentioned in any context since the war began. The Syrian ruler suddenly dredged it up as a useful catchall for his next project. This, say DEBKA Weekly's intelligence sources, was the real point of the meeting. In order to protect the local population, the Syrian president proposed to start recruiting intensively for new local rural militias. “Money and rifles” would be made available,” he promised.
They would be modeled on the Lijan militias – “Popular Committees” – which originated as neighborhood vigilante groups in the Christian, Druze, Alawite and Shiite Muslim quarters of Damascus and elsewhere to prevent the infiltration of Sunni-dominated rebel groups. They also included numbers of Sunni Muslims.

Assad discovers the South is slipping away

Since mid-2013, the Lijan militias, trained and armed by the Iranian Al Qods Brigades, have mushroomed into a fighting force of 60,000-70,000 soldiers standing at Assad's service. This force is even larger than the regular Syrian army which has shrunk in the last couple of years to no more than 55,000 combat troops.
So by setting up local rural militias in the south, in the framework of the Popular Committees, Assad would in effect be extending his control of fighting strength to the south as well.
The Baathist label comes in useful as a cohesive device that transcends religious and ethnic divisions.
The Syrian president was moved to take this action by three events:
1. Iranian and Hizballah intelligence agents picked up on expanding US, Israeli and Jordanian military influence in southern Syria and urged Assad to move fast to counteract the spread before he lost southern Syria to rebel control.
2. He found out from his Iranian and Hizballah informants that the US, Israel and Jordan were establishing the South Syrian Popular Army as a counterweight to the Popular Committees run by Iran and Syria. The SSPA was to carve out a military buffer zone along Syria’s border regions with Israel and Jordan.
Iran and the Hizballah advised the Syrian president to block this effort before it was too late.

The Golan springboard for Syrian-Hizballah attacks on Israel

3. On Tuesday April 7, Hizballah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah charged in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper that "the riots in Syria were orchestrated to achieve Israel's most important goals after its failure in the Second Lebanon War.”
He went on to say: “Actions on the ground increase Israeli concern and Israel's eyes are now on Galilee, its concern over Iran intensifies with each passing day.
When Nasrallah says “Israel's eyes on Galilee,” his real meaning typically is that his own and Syria’s eyes are on Galilee, which they consider to be a legitimate target for military incursions from southern Syria.
Nasrallah’s reasoning is tactically sound. Assad last month rewarded the Hizballah leader for joining the Syrian army’s war on rebels with the gift of the Qalamoun mountain range on the Lebanese border (as first revealed by DEBKA Weekly 628 on March 21).
By extending Hizballah’s reach to the Golan, the Syrian president would provide his ally and the Popular Committees he is shaping in South Syria with a short cut for crossing into Galilee for terrorist strikes against the population of northern Israel.
This reach may have been cut short by US-trained Syrian rebels who Tuesday April 8, the day after Assad laid out is scheme to local southern elders, drove into the Quneitra area of the Golan and captured Tel al-Ahmar, the key Syrian army position opposite Israel forces on the Golan.
Syria and Hizballah and Iran will no doubt hit back for this major loss at a time and location of their choosing.

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