Under cover of a four-day military exercise starting Friday, Nov. 18, Iran is reported exclusively by debkafile's Iranian and counter-terror sources to be transferring Palestinian terrorist units into Syria after training them at IRGC Al Qods facilities for cross-border raids into the West Bank and Israel.
By this step, Iran and Syria are fighting back for the armed campaign the opposition Free Syrian Army-FSA began launching last week on Syrian military installations and command centers.
Tuesday night, Nov. 15, FSA mounted an organized assault on the "Syrian Air Force Intelligence Command" at Harasta near Damascus – the Assad regime's primary covert tool of repression – using anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns. No official information was released about the scale of casualties or damage.
Western intelligence sources following events in Syria report that most of the buildings were torched, an estimated 10 Syrian soldiers were killed and at least 30 injured before a combat helicopter was lofted to break up the battle.
Wednesday, Nov. 16, a second FSA assault group armed with the same weapons hit ruling Baath party headquarters in Idlib.
Sunday, Nov. 20, Syrian ruler Bashar Assad issued his routine warning of a "Middle East earthquake" if attacked.
May 10, shortly after the Syrian uprising erupted, Bashar Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf, a tycoon who controls 60 percent of the national economy, issued this warning: "Without stability in Syria, there will be no stability in Israel."
debkafile's intelligence report that Damascus and Tehran appear to have decided this was the moment to make good on the threat.
In the intervening months, 300 "volunteers" were recruited in Syrian Palestinian refugee camps and transferred to Iran for courses in guerilla combat against strategic and urban targets. They were trained at al Qods elite unit facilities, some at their marine base.
Split into groups of twelve, they were taught combat tactics behind enemy lines. Three of these groups have been flown back to Damascus.
Friday, Nov. 18, straight after the International Atomic Energy Agency called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment and cooperate in disclosing its nuclear work, Tehran announced the start of a big four-day war game. Contrary to many reports, the exercise is not limited to testing the air defenses of Iran's nuclear sites and infrastructure but rather a large-scale war game, debkafile's military sources report, staged by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and including operational intelligence and combat units of the Iranian army, disciplinary (security) forces and trained popular troops.
The "popular troops", say our military sources, refer to the Bassij militia, whose task it is to preserve stable authority in cities in times of war or crisis, plus the Palestinian units recruited in Syria.
From Sunday, Nov. 20, the maneuver is extending to Iran's five main cities, Tehran, Mashad, Urmieh, Kerman and Bushehr.
When the exercise winds down next week, three Iranian military planes will fly the rest of the Palestinians fighters to Syria.