- Published: Monday, January 4, 2016 - 8:50 PM
- Tags: Al-BaghdadiGolan HeightsIsraelShuha-Daesh;Islamic StateYarmuk Martyr Brigades; Kuneitra
At the end of December, Western Journalism reported that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi threatened to turn Israel into a graveyard for Jews and that the IDF is preparing for a possible attack by Islamic State affiliate Wilayat Sinai in the south of Israel.
The Jihadi group in Sinai changed its name from Ansar Bait al Maqdis into Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) in December 2014, when the organization swore allegiance to Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Since then, the group has become more powerful and now possesses advanced weaponry. The group has also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian civilian airplane over northern Sinai at the beginning of November 2015. Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula has become ISIS’ most effective branch in the Middle East, and the IDF believes that when Islamic State attacks Israel, Wilayat Sinai will be at the forefront of the assault.
On New Year’s Eve, however, news broke that another ISIS affiliate is amassing troops on Israel’s border with Syria on the Golan Heights. The Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmuk, or Yarmuk Martyrs Brigades in English, has set up camp a few kilometers from the border with Israel and is now attacking Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda branch in Syria that controls most of the border with Israel on the Golan Heights. The group currently has six hundred fighters but possesses tanks and other heavy weaponry.
The Israeli security forces refer to Shuhada Yarmuk as Shuha-Daesh (Daesh is the Arab acronym for ISIS). The organization that was once part of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army rules over 40,000 people on the Syrian Golan Heights and is only 10 to 15 kilometers away from the Israeli border.
The IDF discovered the activities of the group in the border area a few weeks ago when two massive explosions rocked the town of El-Hmidaiah, some 400 meters from the Quneitra border crossing on the Golan Heights. The explosions turned out to be two car bombs that the ISIS branch used against Jabhat al-Nusra positions in the area. Since then, Shuhada Yarmuk has seized control over some abandoned UNDOF observation posts in the region and has turned them into bases.
While the Israeli army does not expect an immediate attack on Israeli positions or communities on the Golan Heights, the 366th division of the IDF is preparing for any eventuality.
The area next to the border with Israel is hotly contested by Islamist groups and the Iranian-backed coalition that includes Hezbollah and the Syrian army. On New Year’s Eve, these coalition forces finally launched the long-awaited offensive to re-capture the northern part of the border area with Israel and stormed the village of Samdaniya al-Gharbiya close to the border.
The coalition forces used the first winter storm in the area to launch the attack, and pushed towards the strategically important town of Hamdanieh that was lost two years ago. The coalition troops receive air support from Russian warplanes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 30 airstrikes were carried out by the Russian air force over the last 24 hours in the Quneitra Province.
For the moment, the offensive seems to be limited to the northern Golan Heights in Syria, where the Syrian regime always enjoyed the support of the Druze population in Khader and Majdel Shams (the large Druze village at the foot of Mount Hermon in Israel). This is the same area where Hezbollah tried to gain a foothold earlier in 2015.
A new map that was published by the Institute of War at the end of December shows the new ISIS foothold near Kuneitra on the Golan Heights, west of the Syrian town Deraa.
The map gives a good idea of Islamic State’s strategy in Syria, where it has focused on establishing footholds in the south and west over the last year for two reasons. One is to cut Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus off from the large cities in northwestern Syria and the coastal plain in the Latakia Province, and the second is to push slowly in the direction of Lebanon and Israel.
See the map here: ISIS Sanctuary MASTER 21 DEC 2015
Remember, this is what ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi said when he threatened Israel at the end of December:
“The Jews thought we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it. Not at all Jews, we did not forget Palestine for a moment. With the help of Allah, we will not forget it … The pioneers of the jihadist fighters will surround you on a day that you think is distant, and we know is close. We are getting closer every day.”
The presence of Wilayat Sinai and Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmuk at Israel’s southern and northern border show that Al-Baghdadi’s words were more than rhetoric. Islamic State is not only preparing for a future attack on Israel but has already begun to destabilize the Jewish state.
The way Arab terrorists now operate within Israel bears all the hallmarks of Islamic State’s vision of the Jihad against the non-Muslims. The lone wolf attacks that Arabs carry out against Jewish targets in Israel were first propagated by an ISIS ideologue by the name of Musab al-Suri, who wrote a 1600-page manifesto that propagated ‘individual terrorism.’
The latest example of these lone-wolf assaults was the shooting attack in Tel Aviv on Friday evening that claimed the lives of three Israeli citizens and wounded ten others. The attack was carried out by an Israeli Arab from the Wadi Ara region and was similar to what ISIS terrorists recently did in Paris and San Bernardino in the U.S.
This article first appeared on Western Journalism Arizona U.S.A.