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Violent Jihad

Syrian Rebels Move Closer to Israeli Border in Fight against Government

Earlier this week, Syrian rebels launched a large-scale offensive against government-held areas near the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. The rebels surrounded the Druze village of Hader. The Southern Front Alliance and the Haramoun Army also targeted Quneitra, Khan Arnabeth, Baath, Jiba, and the government base Brigade 90. The offensive has raised concerns over … Continue reading "Syrian Rebels Move Closer to Israeli Border in Fight against Government"

BY Jennifer Keltz · | June 19, 2015

Earlier this week, Syrian rebels launched a large-scale offensive against government-held areas near the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. The rebels surrounded the Druze village of Hader. The Southern Front Alliance and the Haramoun Army also targeted Quneitra, Khan Arnabeth, Baath, Jiba, and the government base Brigade 90.

The offensive has raised concerns over an influx of Syrian refugees, including Syrian Druze, pouring into Israel, who issued a threat to intervene in Syria’s civil war for the first time on June 17. 110,000 Druze live in northern Israel and 20,000 live in the Israeli side of the Golan. Israel has opened its borders with Syria previously during the country’s current civil war to provide medical treatment, and as of March, had treated nearly 2,000 Syrians. Israel makes no distinction between civilian and opposition fighter when administering care, and provides treatment to all who need it.

The Haramoun Army consists of Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra), Ahrar ash-Sham, the Osama bin Zeid Brigade, the Jesus Christ Brigade, and Anjad al-Sham. The group’s objective is to free the towns of Jubata al-Khashab and Beit Jann from government control. It warned Druze villagers to not “involve their children in this battle” or to try to stop its offensive, “lest they would suffer the same fate as the regime.”

The advancement of Islamist groups, including the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra, would typically be worrisome to Israel. Al Qaeda has long considered “the continuation of Israel” to be “one of the greatest crimes” and has always thought of Israel as one of its key targets. Despite this, the Israeli airstrike this January did not target Nusra at all, even though Nusra forces are very close to the Israeli line in the Golan. Instead, Israel has been more concerned with the presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria. Though analysts say that the Hezbollah and Iranian presence in Syria is simply to help government forces fight the rebels and not to strike Israel, Hezbollah’s 2009 manifesto repeatedly emphasizes its commitment to Iran and its abhorrence for the Israeli state. For as long as it has existed, it has carried out attacks against Israelis and Jews.

Although Israel and Nusra seem to be engaged in some sort of informal ceasefire, Israel must not let its guard down. The two are fighting common enemies, so neither is presently interested in hurting the other. However, Nusra has declared that Israel is an enemy of Islam, and its affiliation with Al Qaeda implies that it ultimately seeks to destroy the Israeli state after accomplishing its more immediate goal of taking over Syria. Israel’s current strategy toward Nusra can only exist in the short term. In the long term, Israel must develop a plan for countering Nusra, which will certainly turn on Israel. Israel can expect to be attacked, regardless of whether Nusra (or one of its allies) successful seizes power, or remains active as one of many Islamist militias in a fractured Syria.

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