By Yoni Hersch, Daniel Siryoti and JNS
Hezbollah terrorists and other pro-Iranian militants are fighting alongside Syrian soldiers near the Israeli border disguised in Syrian army uniforms, sources linked to Syrian rebel factions told The Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper reported that the concealing of identities stems from fears of additional Israeli attacks, and is an attempt to prevent Israel from targeting Iran-allied fighters in Syria.
Rebel commanders told the paper that following what appeared to be an initial withdrawal of Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militia forces, the fighters returned to the Daraa and Quneitra areas next to the Syria-Israel border, this time wearing Syrian army uniforms and even brandishing Syrian flags.
One senior commander said the returning pro-Iranian fighters were equipped with rockets and missiles.
“It’s a camouflage,” Ahmad Azam, a commander with the Quneitra-based rebel group Salvation Army, told The Wall Street Journal.
“They are leaving … in their Hezbollah uniforms, and they are returning in regime vehicles and dressed in regular [Syrian] army uniforms.”
An Israeli official who spoke to the newspaper did not directly address the disguise allegations but said, “You can be sure that Israel is very much aware of basically everything happening in our backyard.”
The report said the disguise tactic is a sign of how depleted the Syrian army has become as a result of deaths and defections after more than seven years of conflict.
Many of the foreign fighters, who in addition to Lebanese and Iranians include Iraqis and Afghans, have been issued Syrian identification cards, said Azam. Another rebel commander said the Syrian IDs belonged to men killed in battles in recent years.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday that his organization would not leave Syria “as long the Syrian government wants us there, even if all the nations of the world unite against us.”