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Syria, Aided by Hezbollah and Iran, Prepares for Battle Near Israeli Border

The Syrian regime, with the assistance of commanders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and thousands of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, is finalizing preparations for a new battle plan to combat opposition forces along its southern front, according to sources close to the Syrian regime (Arabic link).

Over the past few months Syrian opposition fighters have inflicted heavy losses on the regime and its supporters in this area, specifically near the towns of Daraa and Quneitra, which are located near the Syrian border with Israel. The progress of the opposition forces aroused great concern among the Syrian regime, prompting it to devise a new campaign that is expected to launch in the coming days.

The fighting in southern Syrian challenges not only the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad, but also neighboring Jordan and Israel. Iran and its proxy Hezbollah want to exert control over this area with the help of the Syrian army. Last month, a senior Iranian general, his entourage and several Hezbollah fighters were killed in an alleged Israeli attack in this area.

A Syrian opposition faction recently apprehended an Iranian citizen in the area who admitted under interrogation that there are local Hezbollah and IRGC sleeper cells that transmit information on the movement of opposition activists and leaders. These cells are reportedly located in Daraa and Quneitra, on the border with Israel.

Meanwhile, Syria warned Jordan against sending troops into its territory, saying it is “valiantly” fighting ISIS and does not need foreign interference. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem said on February 10:

“We will not allow anyone to violate our national sovereignty and we do not need any ground troops to fight ISIS. The Syrian Arab government is fully capable of fighting ISIS valiantly and we don’t need any other troops.”

Al-Mualem’s comments come after Jordan launched dozens of airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syrian territory and said it was preparing more in revenge for the murder of Jordanian Air Force pilot Muaz al-Kasasbeh, who was shot down and captured by ISIS in December 2014. Al-Kasasbeh was later chained in a cage and burned alive by ISIS, which posted a video of the brutal murder on the internet this past Tuesday.

[Photo: Elizabeth Arrott / Wikimedia commons ]