ANALYSIS: Russia and Iran increasingly threaten Israel's security from Syria

Friday, July 13, 2018 |  Yochanan Visser

As Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu arrived in Moscow for the third time in six months to hold “very important talks” with Russian president Vladimir Putin the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shot downa Syrian or Iranian drone which was already flying in Israeli airspace 10 kilometers.

The interception of the drone by a Patriot missile triggered the code red alarm in Israeli communities in the northern Jordan valley and on the Golan Heights. No damages or casualties were reported, however.

The new provocation by the Iranian axis in Syria underlined the importance of Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow now that the Iranian-Russian backed pro-Assad coalition is on the verge of launching an offensive to ‘liberate’ the Kuneitra province which borders on Israel.

Israeli and Arab media reported on Wednesday that after seizing more than 70 percent of the territory of the Daraa province in southwest Syria and laying siege on Daraa city, where the uprising against Assad started in 2011, the Syrian army and its Shiite allies are now approaching the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Russian warplanes bombed positions of ISIS-branch Jaish Khalid Ibn al-Walid which is in control of the Yarmouk Basin near the Jordanian and Israeli border.

At the same time, Assad’s forces launched an attack on Jaish Khalid Ibn al-Walid which has vowed to fight until death together with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the former Al Qaida branch in Syria which changed its name in 2017.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is controlling most of the Kuneitra region adjacent to the Israeli border but recently Hezbollah and other Shiite militias which fight along the Syrian army have tried to set up camp in the abandoned UNDOF compound in Kuneitra.

As Israel Today reported earlier the Russian air force is hindering Israel’s operational abilities against the growing threat by the Iranian axis by bombing rebel positions close to the Israeli border.

Netanyahu will no doubt try to get new assurances from Putin regarding the prevention of the Iranian military build-up in Syria but the Russian president is clearly paying a double game in the war-torn country.

Putin has repeatedly violated his promises to keep Iran away from the Golan Heights and has forced Netanyahu into concessions in exchange for a Russian blind eye to Israeli airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah bases in Syria as well as Iranian missile transports to Hezbollah and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Israeli PM first insisted Russia would keep the Iranian axis 80 kilometers from Israel’s border and then agreed to a 40 kilometer wide buffer zone but now says Israel will suffice with the renewed enforcement of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement which secured a relatively 40-year period of calm on the Golan Heights.

Another indication Russia is not a trustworthy partner in countering the growing threat to Israel from Syria came from Sergei Shoigu, Putin’s minister of defense who told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale Russia is currently discussing the supply of the state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to the Assad regime.

The delivery of the S-300 system would seriously undermine Israel’s capability to conduct airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

High-ranking Iranian officials, meanwhile, openly talk about the IRGC’s next target in the seven-year-old Syrian war: the destruction of Israel, while Hezbollah portrays the recent defeat of the Syrian rebels in Daraa as “a heavy defeat for the Zionist regime.”

To justify the Iranian military build-up in southern Syria high-ranking officials in the Islamic Republic now claim Israel is trying to take over Syria.

“The Zionist regime tries to gain dominance over Syria after Daesh (ISIS), but resistance forces and military advisers from the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue their presence alongside Syria to counter terrorism, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the foreign affairs adviser of the speaker of the Iranian parliament said last week.

Amir-Abdollahian said during a meeting with the Palestinian ambassador to Tehran that “the Syrian people  will not allow the country to be turned into the hotbed of Zionist terrorists once again.”

Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the IRGC went even further and threatened Israel with all-out war by an “Islamic Army.”

“Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan,” Salami recently said during the commemoration of ‘Al-Quds day’.

 “Orders are awaited, so that… the eradication of the evil regime will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now,” the IRGC commander claimed.

Salami bragged Hezbollah alone would be able to “break the Zionist regime” with “its 100,000 missiles” and claimed Israel was a “threat to the entire Muslim world.”

At the end of 2017 Qassem Soleimani the shrewd commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC formed an all Shiite Golan Liberation Brigade which is largely made-up of Iraqi militias which fight in Syria on Assad's and Iran’s behalf.

The brigade is an extension of the Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite Iraqi militias who turned Iraq into another Iranian client state and operates in a similar fashion to Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit in Syria.

Both militias are currently involved in the offensive against rebels in Daraa and Kuneitra.

PHOTO: Israeli soldiers keep a close eye on what's happening just over the border in Syria. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

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