Pro-Assad Syrians celebrate regime’s return to Israel border

Since 2011, when Syrians rose up in rebellion against decades of dictatorship, a plethora of changing groups have held positions in Syria across from the border.

By
July 27, 2018 22:17
2 minute read.
Syrian forces of President Bashar Assad are seen on al-Haara hill in Quneitra area, Syria

Syrian forces of President Bashar Assad are seen on al-Haara hill in Quneitra area, Syria July 17, 2018. (photo credit: SANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Over the last week, Syrian regime forces have returned to more points next to the Golan border fence. Syrians sympathetic to Bashar al-Assad have been celebrating their forces’ capture of the frontier positions by posting photos of soldiers raising Syria’s red, white and black flag across from IDF posts along the 1974 cease-fire line.

Since 2011 when Syrians rose up in rebellion against decades of dictatorship, a plethora of changing groups have held positions in Syria across from the border. Initially this included a mix of Syrian regime forces, Hezbollah and rebels. By 2014 rebels came to control most of the border, and then a small group of ISIS members appeared in the southern Golan. A ceasefire between the regime and the rebels kept the situation static from 2015 to June 2018 when the regime launched an offensive against the remaining rebels near Quneitra and Deraa. The rebels near the Golan chose “reconciliation” with the regime, surrendering areas over the last week. The regime also launched an offensive against ISIS, taking border areas it had held for years.

Syrian state media SANA showed images of the flag raising on Friday. Residents who had fled in 2012 returned to villages near Quneitra. This included Druze and Circassians who used to live near the abandoned city of Quneitra which is within the cease-fire line. Government officials also reportedly came to Khan Arnabeh, two km. from the Israeli community of Merom Golan, to celebrate. Videos with a soundtrack of martial music showed a procession of Syrians raising the flag atop an abandoned church in Quneitra. The Syrian flag was also raised in the village of Hamdaniyeh. Images from the Israeli side showed pro-regime soldiers in uniform inside the ceasefire areas between lines Bravo and Alpha, near the border fence. They drove in a pickup truck with a flag.

A Reuters photographer positioned on the Israeli side captured images of pro-regime soldiers riding in a pickup truck festooned with a flag inside the cease-fire areas between the Bravo and Alpha lines, near the border fence. They appeared to be unarmed. Syrians posted images of Palestinian flags flying next to the regime’s flag, with comments about the “Israel occupied Golan heights” and “Palestine” on social media. Commentators accused Israel of supporting the Syrian rebels and “their ISIS puppets.”

Soldiers, civilians and press from across the region, including from Iran’s PressTV, posted video from near the border. The footage suggests that the regime sees as a major victory that it is once again in control of the border territory next to what they see as the Israeli enemy which was held by rebels for seven years.

Jerusalem has expressed concern about the presence of Iranian-backed units in the offensive. However the return of the regime to the border could bring stability as well as threats. “The instability that existed during the civil war is now being replaced with a regime that has assets and interests. This plays in Israel’s favor, making the unpredictable, predictable,” Lt.- Col. Peter Lerner, former IDF spokesperson, tweeted Friday.


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