Israel’s former northern Golan Heights neighbor Bashar al-Assad is fighting with Hezbollah against rebels, supported by Al Qaeda, to regain the territory on the Syrian side of the strategic Golan.
Tanks and artillery are in action within five miles of the Israeli border, where the Israel Air Force last month bombed Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders planning launch an attack on the Israeli Golan.
Israel enjoyed a certain sense of security from Assad before the civil war erupted four years ago because for all his hatred of Israel, attacks on the Golan were not high on his agenda. Both sides enjoyed mutual hatred and a cold peace while the United States, particularly the Obama administration, enjoyed making believe that Assad was the key to peace between Israel and the Arab world.
The civil war exploded that illusion, and once Hezbollah joined up with Assad, the terrorist army’s threat from Lebanon extended eastward to the Golan.
Al Qaeda-backed rebels have taken over most of the territory near the Golan border, and Israeli residents have suffered dozens of rocket attacks, some of them accidental and some intentional.
Iran is believed to behind the new offensive against the rebels, and Hezbollah can be assumed to be taking advantage of Assad’s weakened position to exact the price of victory over the rebels by setting up new bases to attack Israel.
Israeli would not be able to retaliate on Hezbollah in Lebanon if it attacks the Golan from Syria, which no longer can be considered a country where one regime is in charge.
Israel has built some links with the rebels and the Al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and has treated more than 1,000 Syrians, some of them in Israeli hospitals and some in field hospitals on the Israeli side of the Golan.
Heavy fighting this week has put Hezbollah in control of several villages that Assad had lost to the rebels. If Assad and Hezbollah can regain the area between the Golan and Damascus, it will have eliminated the major stronghold of the non-jihadist opposition. The Islamic State (ISIS) controls a major part of Syria north of Damascus.
Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said, “The operations are being led by Hezbollah’s special forces. Their aim appears to be to eventually reach areas bordering the occupied Golan and set up a border zone under Hezbollah’s control.”
His description of the Golan as “occupied” underscores the fact that no matter who is in charge in Syria, he won’t be a friend of Israel.