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Hizballah forms 'Golan unit' to attack Israel from Syria

Israel has previously carried out airstrikes on Iranian and Hizballah positions in the area [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 March, 2019

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Hizballah has recruited Syrians in the Golan Heights to form a new unit designed to attack Israel in the future, the Israeli military claimed on Wednesday.
Hizballah has formed a unit in the Syrian Golan Heights led by a commander previously jailed for an attack on US forces, the Israeli army said on Wednesday.

The military alleged that the new unit, formed of locals from villages in the Golan but "masterminded" by Lebanon-based Hizballah, was formed to "launch attacks against Israel".

The Syrian regime under President Bashar al-Assad has recently regained control of much of southern Syria with the aid of its allies Russia and Iran. Hizballah, backed by Iran, has also fought for the regime during the eight-year war.

"We are not going to allow Hezbollah to establish a terror infrastructure on the Golan capable of striking Israeli civilians," Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, told AFP.

"We hold the Syrian regime responsible for anything that happens inside Syria aimed at Israel," he said, although Israeli intelligence sources told Haaretz that the unit had been kept secret from Assad.

The army said the unit was in the establishment and recruitment stage and was not yet operational, but Haaretz reported recruits already receive monthly wages, and have been given explosives, anti-tank missiles, and small arms including submachine guns.

The operation, reportedly known as the "Golan File", is said to be led by Hizballah commander Ali Musa Daqduq, alias Abu Hussein Sajid.

There was no immediate comment from Hizballah confirming the existence of the unit.

'Golan File'

Daqduq was captured in 2007 on suspicion he had helped organise a raid that led to the death of five US soldiers in the Iraqi city of Karbala. After being handed over to Iraqi officials in 2011, the commander was released in 2012 due to a lack of evidence.

The Hizballah operative was sent to the Syrian Golan Heights last summer to organise the "Golan File", the Israeli military said.

Israel's military claimed that "Golan File" fighters had been seen at Syrian regime bases, wearing Syrian army uniforms, which allowed them to patrol near the border and follow IDF troop movements.

The unit's next move is to transfer weapons such as rockets to the area, intelligence sources claimed.

Israel will "not allow any attempt by Hizballah to entrench itself near the border and we will act with all our might,"
 Brigadier General Amit Fisher, the commander of one of Israel's northern divisions, told AP.

Israel has reportedly been lobbying Assad's biggest backer, Russia, to keep Hizballah out of the Golan.

While Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria, it has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian military positions and suspected Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah.

Israeli strikes in 2015 killed multiple Hizballah members, including the group's then chief in the Golan, Jihad Mughniyeh, and Samir Kuntar, another commander active in the region.

Israel has recently been more public about its military actions and has openly warned of the consequences of Iran establishing a permanent foothold in post-war Syria.

Israel recently exposed a Hizballah tunnel network from Lebanon it says was aimed at carrying out attacks in Israel.

Large parts of the Golan Heights were occupied by Israel during the 1967 war. Israel formally annexed the territory in 1981, a move which has not been recognised internationally.

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