Last week a Syrian writer named Khaled Atallah (a pseudonym) wrote a piece for Al-Monitor’s “Syria Pulse” blog speculating that Israel and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra have been coordinating strikes against the Assad regime and its Hezbollah allies in Quneitra, a region bordering the disputed (but mostly Israeli-controlled) Golan Heights:
According to a UN report covering the period from March to May 2014, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) detected contact between rebels and the Israeli army across the Golan cease-fire line, particularly during fierce clashes between the Syrian army and the rebels. The report also confirmed that the UN forces spotted rebels transporting 89 wounded across the cease-fire line into the Israeli occupied zone, where they were handed over 19 people who had received medical treatment in addition to two dead. The UN forces also noted that the Israeli army delivered two boxes to rebels on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Communications increased between rebels and the Israeli army before the eruption of the southern front in Daraa and Quneitra in September, according to Quneitra opposition activist Mohammad Qasim, a pseudonym due to the sensitivity of the subject.
Qasim, who was active in a support capacity to the rebels during the September offensive, told Al-Monitor via Skype, “The battle to capture Quneitra on Sept. 27 was preceded by coordination and communications between Abu Dardaa, a leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Israeli army to pave the way for the attack. And according to an FSA commander who partly participated in this battle, the Israeli army provided Abu Dardaa with maps of the border area and the Syrian army’s strategic posts in the southern area.”
The rebels’ battle, led by al-Qaeda’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, to control the Quneitra crossing took place in coordination with the Israeli army through Abu Dardaa, according to Qasim. He added, “During the clashes, the Israelis heavily bombarded many of the regime’s posts, shot down a warplane that was trying to impede the progress of the fighters and targeted other aircraft.”
So that’s pretty interesting right? Nothing definitive, just a report from the UN based on a rebel informant, but still interesting. Israel is, after all, America’s great best friend and closest ally in the whole wide world, and America doesn’t, you know, like Al-Qaeda very much. That general dislike definitely includes the Nusra folks, who are not only Al-Qaeda franchisees but who have lately taken to emulating ISIS in their fervor for attacking whatever exists of those moderate rebels we’re so keen on helping, someday, maybe.
So then yesterday, this happened:
An Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed a commander from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the son of the group’s late military leader Imad Moughniyah, Hezbollah said, in a major blow that could lead to reprisal attacks.
The strike hit a convoy carrying Jihad Moughniyah and commander Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, in the province of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, killing six Hezbollah members in all, a statement from the group said.
It comes just days after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said frequent Israeli strikes in Syria were a major aggression, that the group was stronger than before and that Syria and its allies had the right to respond.
That lead doesn’t really capture all the nuances in this story, because Israel is also most likely the reason why Imad Mughniyeh is known as “the late Imad Mughniyeh.” Today it was learned that the strike also killed Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, a top general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who was in Syria “advising” Assad’s army in the civil war.
The Israelis claim that Mughniyeh’s group was targeted because it was preparing to carry out attacks against Israel, which is possible albeit questionable (you’d think an IRGC general and top Hezbollah leaders who are in Syria to help Assad win his civil war would have more immediate concerns). At any rate these weren’t exactly innocent civilians. But this attack does lend some heft to the idea that America’s ally is working closely with one of America’s enemies, and shows that even if they’re not formally working together, every time Israel involves itself in Syria it does so, given its paramount anti-Iran/Hezbollah/Assad stance, to Nusra’s (not to mention ISIS’s) benefit. It also raises the possibility of escalation. The IDF is preparing for some kind of counter-strike, and there’s a reason why, for example, the U.S. leaned hard on Israel not to respond to Saddam Hussein’s missile strikes against it during the Gulf War. When Israel gets involved in regional conflicts, horrible things tend to happen.