'Hezbollah, Syrian army preparing large operation near Israel border'

Iranian media reports that its proxy Hezbollah has already deployed a large contingency of fighters in the Quneitra area, located between Syria and Israel's Golan Heights.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
September 6, 2016 11:11
2 minute read.
Quneitra crossing

Smoke rises following an explosion on the Syrian side near the Quneitra border crossing between the Golan Heights and Syria, August 29, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Troops loyal to the Syrian regime along with Hezbollah fighters have allegedly been finalizing plans to launch a large-scale operation against Syrian opposition forces near the border with Israel, according to Iranian media.

"The Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters have been working on a joint plan to end militancy in Southern Syria, particularly near the Golan Heights," Iran's Fars news agency quoted unnamed military sources as saying Monday.

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The sources added that the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah has already deployed a large contingency of fighters near the Quneitra area, located between Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights.

The Fars report did not provide further details on what such a possible attack would involve or when it would take place.

On Monday, the former head of the Israeli domestic security agency said the Syrian conflict is entering a highly unpredictable phase, adding that the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah posed a growing threat to Israel despite losing many fighters.

As Syria has descended into seemingly intractable fighting over the past five years, Israel has largely stayed on the sidelines, keeping watch over the Golan Heights frontier that divides them and occasionally carrying out airstrikes or returning mortar fire if there is a specific threat.

Israel, with historical enemies on its borders, maintains close intelligence on its neighbors and a special channel of communication with Russia to remain informed on Syria.

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Avi Dichter, the former director of the Shin Bet and now chair of parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, said Israel, like all Western and Arab intelligence agencies, had failed to predict most of what had unfolded, including thinking Syrian President Bashar Assad would be toppled quickly.

With Russia carrying out airstrikes from Iranian bases, and Turkish forces engaged in a ground assault against Islamic State in the north, Israeli officials see the conflict moving into an even more chaotic, unpredictable phase.

In late July, Syrian rebels and a monitoring group said two explosions that struck a Syrian town near the Golan Heights were caused by an Israeli air strike but Hezbollah blamed rocket fire by al-Qaida-linked militants.

Pro-Syrian government forces, including the army and Hezbollah fighters have strongholds in the Quneitra province. Meanwhile, the Nusra Front, Western-backed rebels, and groups which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State also operate in the region.

Though formally neutral on the civil war, Israel has reportedly targeted Hezbollah officials and arms convoys inside Syria several times during the conflict.

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