Reuters follows DEBKAfile ExclusiveREPORT on Iranian militias advance

Dec 25, 2017 @ 9:53 – Reuters has just confirmed that Syrian army forces, backed by Iranian-backed militias, push deeper into rebel-held enclave near the Israeli and Lebanon borders. On Dec. 22, DEBKAfile reported that Israel had suffered a serious setback. Syrian and Hizballah forces had seized a key village in the strategic Beit Jinn enclave north of Israeli Golan, just 4km from IDF Hermon positions. The village of Mahar Al-Mir  fell after two days of fighting ending Friday, Dec. 22.   

The Syrian-Hizballah-pro-Iranian force gain reinforcements from Lebanon and Syria to complete the successful bid for Beit Jinn and close in on Israel.
The Beit Jinn enclave faces the IDF’s Mt. Hermon positions and is 11 km from the Israeli border. Its fall is critical to the fate of the Quneitra region opposite the Israeli Golan. Three strategic setbacks confronted Israel on Sunday, Dec. 25 in the wake of the tripartite military’s capture of Maghar Al-Mir (see attached map) which split the Beit Jinn enclave in two.

  1. Syrian and Hizballah forces continued to push forward east and south, while their officers pinned the defenders, the Islamist Hayat al-Tahrir al-Sham rebels, to the wall with an ultimatum: Hand over the fighters accused of ties with Israel in return for a safe passage of retreat from the embattled enclave, or face destruction.
  2. The attackers mobilized reinforcements from a new direction – Lebanon. A column of Hizballah forces drove in Sunday, Dec. 24, from the southern Lebanese outpost of Chebaa and crossed into Syria to join the assault on the rebels.
  3. Damascus, moreover, sent in the Golan Regiment militia to clinch the Beit Jinn battle, in the expectation that that its fall would also have a domino effect on Israeli-backed rebel defenders in the entire Quneitra region of the Syrian Golan. The Syrian army originally established this militia for pro-Assad Druze fighters. But in the past year, it has been packed with Iranian elements linked to the Revolutionary Guards. They established a headquarters at Khan Arnaba north of Quneitra and 5.5km from the Israeli border. The Revolutionary Guards officers’ presence in Khan Arnaba gives Iran a direct a hand in the Beit Jinn battle and its projected sequel, the fight for Quneitra right up to Israel’s Golan border and a threat to the IDF’s Hermon position.

DEBKAfile’s military sources estimate that the only way the rebels can escape the Syrian-Hizballah crunch is by going on the offensive against the Druze village of Hader in order to break open an escape route to the south. But the obstacle there is a pledge which Israel gave Israeli Druze leaders in November not to allow rebel forces to attack Hader. The pledge was given in the wake of violent Druze riots on the Golan and threats from Israeli Druze, some of whom hold high military ranks in the IDF, to cross the border and defend Hader themselves.

This Israeli pledge to its Druze citizens is the strongest card the Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian forces are wielding to compel the Hayat al-Tahrir al-Sham to surrender. After that, the three forces would move in and take up positions in the captured the Beit Jinn enclave, and gain a jumping-off pad against Israel and its Hermon outpost. The way this affair is playing out makes naught of Israel’s government and military leaders’ solemn vow to keep Iran and Hizballah far from its borders.