While the Israeli army was busy saving the lives of 800 members of the Syrian rescue organization “White Helmets” this weekend, the Russian-Iranian-backed Assad regime forces mercilessly pounded the last pockets of resistance in the Yarmouk Basin.
The Yarmouk Basin straddles the border with Israel and Jordan on the southern Golan Heights.
The heavy Russian bombardments on the local ISIS branch Jaish Khalid Ibn al-Walid were audible throughout north-eastern Israel and started on Saturday evening.
The London-based Syrian watchdog organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed the Russian air force carried out between 120 and130 airstrikes against the Islamic State affiliate which refused to be part of a new surrender agreement between the Assad regime and other Islamist rebel groups on the Golan Heights.
On Thursday, those rebels, members of the former Al-Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra (today named Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), agreed to surrender terms dictated by the regime in Damascus and received a safe passage to the predominantly Sunni Arab province Idlib in northern Syria in return.
Others who wanted to stay in Kuneitra could do so by “settling their legal status” and by accepting terms dictated by Assad regime but almost all Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighters preferred to leave.
Fifty five buses reportedly transported the roughly 4,000 rebels to Idlib, according to Assad’s mouthpiece SANA.
The surrender deal was brokered by the Russian military in Syria and preceded another agreement between Israel and Russia about a return to the situation which existed before the uprising against Assad started in 2011.
That deal was reportedly based on the Separation of Forces Agreement from May 1974 and includes a return of the 90th and the 61st brigade of the Syrian army to positions they held prior to 2011.
The governments of Israel and Russia formed working groups which studied issues like the deployment of Syrian and Israeli forces along the border on the Golan Heights and the re-instalment of demilitarized zones and no-man’s land.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu initially pushed for a 40 kilometer-wide no-go zone for Iranian militias and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights but failed to enlist Russian president Vladimir Putin for his political offensive against the Iranian presence in Syria.
Russia has its own agenda in Syria and Putin doesn’t see Iran as an adversary or a danger to other Middle Eastern countries if we are to believe Levan Dzhagaryan his ambassador to Iran.
Dzhagaryan, last week told the Russian paper Kommersant Iran’s presence in Syria is “legitimate” since it is there at Assad’s request.
“Iran is not a (small) country you can force it out. Iran is a big country that pursues an independent foreign policy. Working with Iranians can only be done through convincing. Pressuring Iran will have adverse effect,” Russia’s top diplomat in Iran said.
He added that Russia will do its best to avoid a war between Israel and Iran over the Iranian military build-up in Syria.
Netanyahu is apparently not convinced Russia will do enough to stop the Iranian encroachment on the Israeli Syrian border and again called Putin last Friday.
“Israel will continue to act against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria,” Netanyahu reportedly told Putin but a commander of Assad’s army claimed “the Israelis had been forced into submission.”
The pro-Assad coalition, which includes the Lebanese Shiite terror organization Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias, is now pushing nearer to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights a move which endangers the lives of thousands of displaced Syrian citizens.
Those civilians, most of them opponents of the Assad regime, remain trapped in the area adjacent to the Israeli border in the assumption Israel will evacuate them as well.
“Refugees have set up tents just metres away from the Israeli-controlled Golan frontier, and early last week dozens risked walking over minefields to approach the border fence, some carrying white flags in an apparent attempt to cross to safety,” the Guardian in England reported Saturday.
Many of these displaced persons are opponents of the Assad-regime and they are “extremely nervous” according to a Syrian humanitarian aid worker in Quneitra.
“The numbers in Quneitra were very large, and the humanitarian situation was very difficult. There are no homes, people were staying in tents, and they were lucky if they found tents,” another Humanitarian aid worker interviewed by the Guardian said.
The English paper omitted that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have delivered large amounts of humanitarian aid to the refugees and are transferring wounded Syrians to Israeli hospitals.
Last week alone the IDF carried out six special operations to provide the trapped Syrian civilians approx 72 tons of food, 70 tents, 2,378 gallons of fuel, medicine & medical equipment, clothing & toys, according to the IDF’s spokesmen office.
The reality on the Golan Heights is “extremely complex” according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who also spoke on the telephone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
The two ministers agreed that there’s a crucial need to continue the “military operation” and to be in contact on a senior level in the days ahead.
The latest news is that PM Netanyahu will unexpectedly meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin’s Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov in Jerusalem to discuss the situation on the Golan Heights where on Monday the IDF used its David Sling anti-rocket shield against two incoming rockets.