A large Hizballah force, backed by the Syrian army and pro-Iranian Shiite militias, is building up outside Quneitra, just 2km from Israel’s Golan border. The Lebanese Shiite fighters, under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officers, are streaming into southern Syria, armed with tanks and artillery.
Monday night, Sept. 5, Iranian state-controlled media shed light on this movement, reporting that the combined force had “completed preparations necessary for an extensive operation in southern Syria,” adding, “Hizballah aims to put an end to the presence of armed men in the area close to the border.”
The nature of the “armed men” was not specified, but the goal of the new operation was clear: after evicting the assorted anti-Assad groups, including the Islamic State, holding territory “close to the border,” Hizballah and its backers planned to regroup on the Syrian-Israeli boundary.
This would position Iran and its Hizballah surrogate ready to realize their six-year old design, which is to open a second warfront against Israel.
Western and Mid East sources have told debkafile that the triple army is in high spirits after last week’s successful operation in Aleppo. By snatching back parts of the city they lost in mid-August, the Syrian army and its allies managed to cut off the rebels’ supply lines from Turkey.
It was then that some Hizballah units were detached from the Aleppo arena and redirected to the Quneitra front in southern Syria to face the Israeli border.
Those sources report that the incoming troops were sighted this week when they arrived at Madinat al-Baath and Khan Amabeh, the main Syrian army bases on the Syrian Golan. They came with tanks and heavy artillery. Seen for the first time in the Quentra sector were heavy, self-propelled KS-19 artillery batteries, which are Russian anti-air guns adapted to ground warfare. They have a range of 21km and a firing capacity of 15 shells per minute.
The newly-arrived Hizballah force appears to have set the capture of Syrian rebel-held al-Hamdiniyah 2km from the Israeli border, as its first objective.
debkafile’s military sources note that the Iranian media attached photos of Israel’s security force opposite Quneitra to their reporting on the new move, thereby framing the target of the Syrian-Iranian-Backed Hizballah build-up.
This fast-approaching development poses two tough questions:
1. Will Israel lie down for the avowedly hostile Hizballah and Iran to occupy territory along its eastern border?Israel officials have repeatedly emphasized that these forces would not be allowed to take up positions on the Golan border, a message Russia most certainly passed on to Damascus.
If Hizballah and its allies go through with their planned offensive, Israel will have to consider serious military action to prevent them from reaching the border fence, i.e., an operation on a scale quite different from the small-shot IDF reprisals for rockets or shells straying across into the Golan from fighting on the other side.
2. Will the advancing Iranian-led force have Syrian air cover? If it does, the Israeli Air Force will also be involved in aerial combat over the Golan.