Syrian “friendly fire” kills scores of Iranian, Hizballah soldiers on way to Golan
The Syrian army’s 9th Division mistakenly directed artillery and missile fire on Iranian, Hizballah and its own forces Wednesday, Feb. 18 during their push from southern Syria towards the Golan. This is reported by debkafile’s military and intelligence sources. A Syrian general was also among those killed by the “friendly fire,” which military experts attribute to faulty coordination among the assorted forces taking part in the drive towards Quneitra.
Their operation has so far claimed an estimated 200 Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah lives.
It was this incident which greeted Iranian Al Qods Brigades commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, shortly after he arrived this week at the Iranian command center west of Damascus, to take command of the South Syrian warfront with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s assent.
This was the first time in the four years of the Syrian conflict that Assad has agreed to relinquish control of any of his army’s war sectors and pass it in full to an Iranian commander.
This action has four ominous military and intelligence connotations for Israel:
1. The earlier surmise that Tehran’s motive in the combined push for control of the Golan was to entrench Hizballah forces on the Golan opposite Israeli lines, has now been updated: The Iranian goal is broader and more dangerous; it is to deploy radical Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) units right up against Israel’s northeastern border with Syria and face to face with the IDF.
2. And that is not all, The Iranians aim to drive the Syrian rebels off the Golan and occupy Quneitra as a major military outpost and the seat of their forward command. This would be the first time that an Iranian command post has reached to within sight and firing range of Israeli military forces.
The large number of IRGC and Al Qods Brigades officers attached to this offensive form the future nucleus of the new Iranian command center in Quneitra.
It must be presumed that, just as Tehran has transferred forces from Iraq and other parts of the Shiite world to Syria for its Quneitra operation, it will also bring over from Iraq short-range cannon, various types of missiles and T-72 tanks that are suitable for a potential contest with the Israeli military at very close quarters. The equipment will not be consigned via Damascus or subject to Syrian military control, but transferred straight to the new Iranian base on the Golan – that is if their combined force is able to pull itself together after the friendly fire episode and capture Quneitra.
3. Gen. Soleimani has set the Iranian commanders their first objective. It is to wrest from Syrian rebels the loftyTel al-Hara mountain, which was formerly a Syrian fortress with tens of square kilometers of bunkers, funnels and defensive positions. Also perched there were advanced Russian radar stations, which kept track of Israel military and air force movements across the border. These stations were connected to the Middle East intelligence networks of the IRGC and kept Tehran abreast of Israeli military movements and deployments.
Should the Iranian-led Syria-Hizballah force succeed in overwhelming the Syrian rebel defenders and capturing this strategic mountaintop, they will be able to restore these facilities and go back to spying on northern Israel.
Soleimani’s plan is to connect this station to the forward command center he is aiming to establish in Quenitra.
4. Tel al-Hara (roughly 3,500 ft alt) is the tallest peak in the Golan region, overlooking Israel’s outposts including Tel Hazaka. Its fall would award Iranian forces a commanding position over IDF positions.