Photo Credit: SANA
Syrian Army units in Idleb and Hama provinces.

Iran has ordered Hezbollah and the Syrian army to accelerate their preparations for the next phase in the fighting, to complete the removal of rebel forces from Quneitra province alongside the Israeli border, NzivNet reported Wednesday. Last Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right reported that regime forces targeted the Ofanya village in the Quneitra countryside with heavy machine guns. The assumption is that Iran is coordinating a strategy that worked well elsewhere in the Syrian war: cut up the Syrian Golan into sectors and isolate and destroy the rebel forces in each sector separately, preventing the arrival of reinforcements and supplies.

The Iranians, who command both the Syrian army units and Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, have been pushing these forces relentlessly to the southern border with Israel, despite recent Israeli attacks on Hezbollah, Syrian and Iranian posts. Iran is keeping its eyes on the prize: crossing every Israeli-drawn red line on the way to the border.

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So far, actual Iranian-controlled movement on the ground has been modest in the Quneitra area, with reinforcements of only about 30 fighters, two tanks and a field canon. At the same time, the regime has been forced to pull an infantry division from the Golan fighting, which was then deployed in defending against rebel attacks north of Damascus. Hence Iran’s impatience about picking up the pace down south.

Israel, for its part, is free to act with belligerence in response to Iran’s planned troop movements: the 1974 ceasefire agreement with Syria set up a buffer zone where no military forces are permitted. So far, the IDF has responded with only limited fire against the sources of shooting from the Syrian side, which appeared to be spillover fire from the fighting around Quneitra.

A more aggressive Israeli response to Iran’s maneuvering north of the border could drag the region into more intense confrontations.

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