Israeli media have reported that the Syrian regime is preparing to expand its area of control in the south of the country near the border with Israel.
Amos Harel, writing in Haaretz, concludes that the regime’s conquest of Aleppo, Dir a-Zur and al-Raqqa has freed up the army and Shi’ite militias to focus on other areas of the country such as the Syrian part of the Golan Heights.
The Syrian side of the border with Israel in the Golan has been relatively stable in the last year. The northern part of this area, which includes the Druze village of Khader and Sunni villages along the Lebanese border, are controlled by the Syrian regime or local militias that maintain contact with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebel organizations control the majority of the area from the town of Quneitra and southward, while further from the Israeli-Syria border are organizations identified with Al-Qaeda. The area where the Syrian, Israeli and Jordanian borders meet is controlled by a local arm of ISIS. The report also says that up to 1,000 ISIS fighters – disguised as “refugees” from battles in areas that ISIS has lost – have recently arrived in southern Syria and are now believed to be operating under the auspices of the local ISIS branch.
Harel suggests that the Syrian army and affiliated Shi’ite militias are likely to start their attack on the rebel forces in the vicinity of the border with Lebanon and may subsequently try to advance southward, along Israel’s border in the Golan Heights.
Harel further writes that the Syrian regime’s focus on the southern areas of the country, following its military victories in the north, presents a dilemma for Israel. On the one hand, Israel has been warning against increased Iranian influence in Syria and its encroachment to the Israeli-Syrian border. But the strengthening of ISIS elements near the border could create greater potential for terrorism against Israel.
Instability in southern Syria is also a security threat to Jordan. Jordanian journalist Bassam Badareen says in the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that Jordan feels abandoned by its US and Russian allies despite the understandings achieved between them in an agreement signed last month for the establishment of regions to reduce friction in southern Syria.