Amid raging conflict in Syria, IDF deploys new division to border

Army chief says restructuring of military forces on Golan is part of shift towards providing quicker response to threats.

 IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz tours Golan Heights (photo credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz tours Golan Heights
The IDF has mobilized a new division to the border with Syria, rotating away the division previously responsible for the sector.
The revisions are part of preparations for defending the Golan Heights from growing radicalism and anarchy raging across the northern border.
The 210th Regional Bashan Division has replaced the 36th Armor Division on the Golan Heights and the Har Dov sector, in what the IDF is describing as a significant boost to border security and stability.
Speaking from the Golan Heights on Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said the Israeli side of the border looks serene, but that “underneath the quiet, a storm is raging.”
There is no region in which Iran is not involved, he said, adding that the Islamic Republic is “giving out torches to pyromaniacs who are running wild in the region.”
Syria is neck deep in civil war and hundreds of its civilians are losing their lives every week, Gantz said.
“We are maintaining operational readiness,” he added.
Gantz said the restructuring of military forces on the Golan Heights is part of a shift towards providing a faster response from the air, sea and ground to threats to Israel’s security.
He described the changes as “very significant. We are ready for every scenario. When the state dials 911, the military will report for duty.”
The 36th Armor Division had been stationed on the Golan Heights for 40 years, and its move away from the Syrian border is a historic military shift. With the transition it looks to become an all-purpose wartime division, designed to be sent to any combat arena, such as Lebanon or Gaza, to support other divisions.
Replacing it is to be the 210th Division, which since July has been training intensively to familiarize itself with the border. It has been mastering the IDF’s intelligence and firepower capabilities that may be needed to deal with future threats from Syria.
Senior military sources said the division’s enhanced capabilities will make the border more stable, due to its ability to prevent or quickly respond and contain security incidents. It thereby minimizes the chances of a border attack spiraling out of control and developing into a wider conflict.
In addition to its firepower and intelligence, the IDF is working on its ability to carry out a ground maneuver in enemy territory as a third layer of security.
Infantry, armored units and artillery corps units could move across the frontier to defend the home front from threats such as rockets, terrorist cells and enemy army units.
This in turn is expected to be enhanced by air defense systems like Iron Dome and the David’s Sling system, the latter being designed to defend against medium- range rockets and cruise missiles.
The military sources said they do not expect Syria to recover from the civil war and go back to being a sovereign state in the foreseeable future, and they described the conflict as a strategic change that will be studied in future textbooks on Middle East history. It is impossible to know how Syria will turn out, they added.
A plethora of rebel forces control most of the regions that border Israel, though forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are attempting to regain ground. The IDF’s map of territory controlled by the Assad regime and the rebels is changing continuously.
There is no Syrian state sovereignty in areas bordering the southern Golan Heights, and global jihadi forces are expected to get stronger in such areas, according to intelligence assessments.
“Israel has no interest in the war in Syria, and no desire to get involved in the fighting. We provide humanitarian aid to injured civilians,” one source said.
The 210th Division is in the process of setting up its central command headquarters, which is to oversee tank battalions, artillery support units and infantry units on the Golan Heights.
Commanders from the division have spent months being briefed on the latest situation in Syria. This effort has included extensive briefings by commanders from the outgoing 36th Armor Division and a variety of intelligence sources.
At the end of January, the division held a surprise drill to test its responses.
“We wanted to arrive ready,” the source said.
The division is to have the ability to respond to immediate threats without seeking higher approval in incidents such as rocket attacks by terrorists or artillery fire from a Syrian army position.
In addition, it is to be assisted by a recently created Combat Intelligence Collection battalion, active along the Syrian border, and by a new security fence complete with electro-optical surveillance means and radars.
“We are developing new methods of operations, aimed at ensuring that our forces will not be transparent to the other side,” the source said.
At present, there is no reason for civilians on the Golan Heights to change their daily life, he said.
“Our role as the army is let the farmer work his land and visitors to wander freely around here. If there is a need, we will advise local residents on which areas to avoid temporarily,” he said.