Iranian Al Qods and intelligence personnel and their subsidiary Shiite militias, chiefly Hizballah, are embedded in Syrian command posts opposite the Israel Golan. They are disguised in Syrian uniforms. An IDF artillery and drone assault was reported by Damascus on Feb. 11 as hitting a former hospital in Quneitra and two Syrian army camps at the nearby village of Jabata Al-Shaab. The notice omitted to mention that all three sites are occupied by Iranian, Shiite militias and Hizballah forces. They have been there for roughly eight months.
In July 2018, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and then Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot reached an understanding with Moscow, with support from President Donald Trump, for the Russian army to undertake to keep Iranian and their proxy forces out of the Israeli border region after the Syrian army recovered Quneitra opposite the Israeli Golan and southern Syria. Moscow promised that eight posts manned by Russian military police would keep a 45km deep strip from the Golan off limits to those forces. That understanding never stood up. DEBKAfile reported on July 19 that the Syrian posts had been taken over by Iranian and Hizballah forces posing as Syrian troops. Three weeks ago, on Jan. 21, an Iranian Al Qods battery posted outside Damascus launched a Fatteh-110 missile towards Mt Hermon in reprisal for an Israeli cruise missile strike on Iranian facilities near Damascus.
DEBKAfile offers three explanations for Israel’s decision to go for the Iranians and their proxies now, after giving them eight months to settle in just a few kilometers from the Golan:
- Iran and Hizballah have decided to inflame Israel’s northern and Gaza borders in turn in the run-up to parliamentary election on April 9. As voting days approach, they will turn the heat up for conflagrations on both borders at once.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party can’t afford to let a security crisis veer out of control, especially when it is engineered by Tehran and Hizballah.
- The IDF’s new chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is revealed as having taken issue with some of his predecessor’s principles and may be expected to be more pro-active.