[Rushtalk] Muslim fundamentalists Rule '95 Percent' of Heights Overlooking Northern Israel

Carl William Spitzer IV cwsiv at copper.net
Wed Jul 23 07:38:35 MDT 2014

Islamist Militants Rule ’95 Percent’ of Heights Overlooking Northern

Sharona Schwartz



Radical Islamist militants now rule the vast majority of territory on
the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, an Israeli military commander
says, placing them in strategic position to threaten northern Israeli

Col. Anan Abbas, deputy commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Golan
Brigade told Israel’s Channel 10 News that 95 percent of the
territory of the Golan Heights on the Syrian side of the border with
Israel has fallen under control of jihadist rebels.

Among the militants controlling the area are those with the Al
Qaeda-linked Nusra Front which has imposed strict Islamic law in the
areas it has captured and just last week posted a video of its Shariah
council amputating the hands of accused thieves in Al-Bukamal in eastern
Syria near the Iraqi border.

Israeli soldiers are seen on their Merkava tank positioned near the
Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Golan Heights, on
June 22, 2014. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli soldiers are seen on their Merkava tank positioned near the
Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Golan Heights, on
June 22, 2014. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The only remaining part of the Golan Heights still controlled by
President Bashar Assad’s forces is the area of the Quneitra border
crossing with Israel, according to the Israeli commander, who added that
one of the two Syrian army brigades that had controlled the area had
disappeared from the battlefield.

Though the Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other
rebel groups are currently engaged in an effort to oust Assad from power
and establish a regional caliphate, Col. Abbas said their sights are
also set on Israel.

“[W]e know their goal is to harm Israel; we’ve seen their propaganda
material,” he said.

The Israeli news site Ynet reported last week that as a result of the
emerging threat from Islamist militants in Syria, the IDF has set up
“attack cells” along the Golan border, that is, prepositioned outposts
that could be quickly staffed in the event of a cross border attack from
the Golan, speeding response time for the Israeli military.

In 1981, Israel annexed the part of the Golan Heights it captured from
Syria in the 1967 war.

Former President Bill Clinton made concerted efforts in the 1990s to
convince Israel to relinquish the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace
deal; however, negotiations eventually collapsed.

Much of northern Israel including the Sea of Galilee can be seen from
the Golan and thus is considered by Israel to be of strategic importance
to be held to ensure the security of citizens living in the northern
part of the country.

A leader of the Nusra Front compared the Golan’s strategic importance to
the mujahideen campaign against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

“This view reminds us of the lion of the mujahideen, Osama bin Laden, on
the mountains of Tora Bora,” a leader of the Al-Nusra Front told Reuters
in May.

Last week, an Israeli teenager was killed by Syrian troops who shot at
him across the border.

Syria later told Israel via a U.N. emissary that the its army troops had
mistakenly identified a truck approaching the boy and his father as a
rebel truck on the Syrian side of the border and fired an anti-tank
missile on their location, Channel 10 reported.

Reuters last month noted that recent advances by Islamist militants in
the Golan were “important not just because they expand rebel control
close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Jordanian border,
but because President Bashar al-Assad’s power base in Damascus lies just
40 miles to the north.”

Reuters also quoted Western intelligence officials who estimated that
some 60 insurgent groups are operating in southern Syria.


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