The Syrian rebel militia Al Yarmouk Shuhada Brigades, backed and trained for two years by US officers, mostly CIA experts, in Jordan, and supported by the Israeli army, has abruptly dumped these sponsors and joined up with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, debkafile’s exclusive military and counter-terrorism sources reveal.
The sudden defection of this 2,000-strong anti-Assad force leaves IDF defense formations on the Golan, US and Jordanian deployments in the northern part of the kingdom, and pro-Western rebel conquests in southern Syria in danger of collapse.
The Brigades’ jump into the radical jihadi camp was negotiated in the last two weeks by its commander Mousab Ali Qarfan, who also goes by the name of Mousab Zaytouneh. He was in direct contact with ISIS chief Abu Baqr Al-Baghdadi, whom our sources report has recently relocated from Iraq to his northern Syrian headquarters at al-Raqqa.
Unlike the Sinai Islamists, Ansar Beit al Maqdis, the Yarmouk Brigades did not pledge allegiance to ISIS. The ir pact was forged as an operational alliance, which is just as grave a peril for the rebel militias’ abandoned allies.
For Israel, in particular, the new development is fraught with three dangers:
1. The Yarmouk Brigades are strung out along Israel’s Golan border with Syria, from the UN peacekeepers camp opposite Kibbutz Ein Zivan (see map) in the north, down to the Israeli-Syrian-Jordanian border junction in the south. The Brigades therefore sit along 45 of the total 76 kilometers of the Syrian-Israeli border. This means that a long stretch of Israel’s Golan border with Syria has fallen under the control of the Islamic State.
2. This militia also commands sections of the Syrian-Jordanian border, as well as districts of the southern Syrian town of Deraa. Therefore, the link between Jordan and southern Syria, which served American strategic interests, is now under military threat.
3. Islamic State forces are preparing to take advantage of their new asset with a buildup near the Druze Mountains (see map) for a rapid push south towards the town of Deraa, where they will join forces with their new ally.