Israeli Army: Syrian Al-Qaeda Affiliate ‘100 Yards’ from Israel’s Border

AP/Ariel Schalit
AP/Ariel Schalit
Washington, D.C.

The Syrian army is defunct and the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria is “100 yards” from the country’s border with Israel, an unidentified senior Israeli army officer said, The Times of Israel reports.

Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria finds itself in “the most grave predicament” since the civil war there started in March 2011, argued the Israeli army official. The anti-Assad Free Syrian Army “is spread out,” he added.

Meanwhile, the officer mentioned that the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, is sitting “on the fence,” adding that the Sunni jihadist group has positions “100 yards” from Israel’s border.

Syrian rebels primarily control the Golan Heights on the Syrian side of the border with Israel, reports The Times of Israel.  

Nevertheless, it adds that “the Deputy Chief of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] General Staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, earlier this week described Israel’s strategic position in the north, in light of Hezbollah’s entanglement and the demise of the Syrian army, as perhaps ‘better than ever.'”

The military officer noted that Assad’s ally Hezbollah has lost 700 of its fighters since the outbreak of the Syrian war, including 100 over the past two weeks alone.

He said that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, is suffering from “no small amount of embarrassment” in Lebanon, adding that the terrorist group has moved some of its troops out of the Lebanon border with Israel and into Syria. “That points to their distress,” he added.

Hezbollah began supporting the Syrian regime in 2012. Today it has deployed fighters to Iraq, advisers to Yemen, and 6,000 to 8,000 fighters to Syria, notes The Times of Israel. “The last thing they want is to open a front with us,” the Israeli army officer said.

Despite the Assad regime setbacks, Iran, which has supported Hezbollah’s military efforts in Syria, has pledged to support the Syrian regime “until the end of the road,” Reuters reports.

“The Iranian nation and government will remain at the side of the Syrian nation and government until the end of the road,” state news agency IRNA quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as saying, according to Reuters.

Iran’s contributions to the Assad regime efforts are complex, the Israeli officer said.

While it is evident that there is a Shiite-Iranian-Hezbollah hegemony in west Syria and that Iran’s contributions, in the form of money and material, have increased considerably, there are no Iranian troops on the ground in Syria, explained the army official.

“Tehran understands that, as opposed to in Iraq or Lebanon, there are few gains to be made in Syria… and therefore the majority of the fighting force is Hezbollah” said the military officer, reports The Times of Israel. “Why should they shed blood for Hezbollah?” he reportedly asked.

The senior Israeli military official said that if Iran signs the nuclear deal that it is currently negotiating with six world powers, it would render the Islamic Republic “a threat in decline.”