The Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terror group in Syria is reconciling with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The two groups have been at odds for most of the past year. However, last week’s U.S.-led air strikes in northern and eastern Syria have prompted Jabhat al-Nusra to renew its ties with ISIS, declaring the strikes a “war on Islam” in an audio statement released this past weekend.
Scores of al-Nusra members were killed in the first wave of U.S.-led air strikes, leading the group to vow retaliation for the attacks. The two terror groups are now holding war councils together, according to a senior source quoted by Britain’s London-based newspaper, The Guardian.
A spokesperson for the group told the paper that 73 members had defected to ISIS on Friday alone. More are planning to do the same this week. “We are in a long war,” al-Nusra spokesperson Abu Firas al-Suri said in a statement posted on social networking sites. “This war will not end in months or years; this war could last for decades.”
U.S. President Barack Obama admitted the intelligence community had underestimated the situation in both Iraq and Syria.
In an interview on “60 Minutes” broadcast on the CBS network, Obama said, “Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves. And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world.”
That ‘ground zero’ is barely a fired mortar shell away from Israel’s northern border with Syria. “Spillover” from the Syrian civil war raging between government troops and rebel forces has resulted in shell fire landing not only in Israeli territory but also in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.
Of more concern is the fact that Jabhat al-Nusra controls the Quneitra border crossing — the sole crossing between Israel and Syria — and that ISIS now controls the border crosssings between Iraq and Syria, and the Iraqi side of the crossing with Jordan.
Israeli military officials are monitoring the situation closely.