Haaretz: In a new challenge to Israel, Syria’s Assad sets his sights on Golan border area

The Assad regime is gearing up to expand the area it controls in southern Syria, near the border with Israel.

The Syrian army and the militias supporting it are likely to start their attack on the rebel forces in the vicinity of the border with Lebanon, by the Syrian Mount Hermon. Later they may try to advance southward, along Israel’s border in the Golan Heights

Israel has taken a harder line against the Assad regime in recent years. Now it will have to rethink its policy, mainly after hundreds of people from radical Sunni organizations, identified with Al-Qaida and ISIS, reached the area.

The Syrian side of the border with Israel in the Golan has been relatively stable in the last year. The Assad regime controlled the northern part, returning to outposts on the Syrian Hermon and in the new town of Quneitra. There were also two enclaves, a Druze one in the village of Khader, which is controlled by a local militia that maintained contact with the Assad regime; and a Sunni enclave in villages along the Lebanon border

Syria

Rebel organizations controlled the main part of the border, from the old town of Quneitra and southward. This area was mainly the fiefdom of local Sunni militias, some of which accepted aid from Israel in the form of food, clothing, medicine and medical care in Israeli hospitals. Arab-language media claim that Israel also supplies these militias with arms and ammunition. Farther from the border, extreme organizations identified with Al-Qaida, first and foremost the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front).

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