Archive for the ‘Israel’s borders’ category

Iran buildup in S. Syria – riposte for IDF drill

September 12, 2017

Iran buildup in S. Syria – riposte for IDF drill, DEBKAfile, September 12, 2017

 

An Iranian military buildup indeed appears to be taking place on Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel, in response to Israel’s mock thrust into Lebanon. But they are moving in on areas outside the de-escalation zones which are manned by Russian officers. Their tactic therefore is to entrench themselves in other parts of the southeastern Syria so that Russian, Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah forces form a continuous, impermeable line along Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

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Lebanese sources claimed that on Monday, Syria had fired S-200 missiles against two Israeli F-15 fighter bombers flying over the southern Lebanese port town of Sidon – but missed their targets. The Syrian missiles, they claimed, had been fired from “an air defense base in southern Syria.”

This report was not confirmed by any other source. But it was accompanied by a photo on various Syrian social media, which claimed to depict the firing of these missiles and also presented a Lebanese military spokesman as saying that the Syrian missiles were fired at precisely 11.30 a.m. when the Israeli planes were over Sidon.

The Lebanese and Syrian media accounts are clearly coordinated.

If this episode actually happened, it would be a game changer, in that for the first time, Syria would have launched missiles from one of its bases against a purported Israel warplanes flying over Lebanon.

Even if the two allies were just sending a message to Jerusalem by drumming up an incident, it gains substance from its timing, i.e. five days after an Israeli air strike on Syria’s chemical and missile weapons development facility, the Scientific Studies and Research Center near Masyaf, 38 km west of the central town of Hama.

Syrian military sources are moreover reporting an onrush of Iranian officers, troops and military advisers to southern Syria. According to one official, “Many Iranians are deployed as advisers and police in southern Syria, especially in the de-escalation zones.” Another Syrian official put it more plainly. “We have seen a big increase in the number of Iranian soldiers this month.”

|DEBKAfile’s military sources confirm that these reports are partially correct. An Iranian military buildup indeed appears to be taking place on Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel, in response to Israel’s mock thrust into Lebanon. But they are moving in on areas outside the de-escalation zones which are manned by Russian officers. Their tactic therefore is to entrench themselves in other parts of the southeastern Syria so that Russian, Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah forces form a continuous, impermeable line along Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, units of the Syrian army’s 5th Corps moved in on large sections of the Jordanian border, including parts close to Israel.

Neither the IDF nor the Jordanian army interfered with any of these potentially menacing steps. They are seen by DEBKAfile’s military sources as a combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah comeback for the IDF exercise, to demonstrate that, while Israel shows itself capable of invading Lebanon, the three allies have meanwhile become firmly ensconced on its northern border.

The next day, Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah boasted: “We have won the war in Syria. Our martyrs, wounded, captives and people are changing equations and writing the region’s history, not just Lebanon’s.”

US set to quit Al Tanf. Pro-Iranian force moves in

September 8, 2017

US set to quit Al Tanf. Pro-Iranian force moves in, DEBKAfile, September 8, 2017

While Israeli jets were bombing the Syrian CERS chemical facility at Masyaf, 38km west of the central Syrian town of Hama, early Thursday, Sept 7,  control of the Syrian-Iraqi border to the east was quietly changing hands.

DEBKAfile tracks the ongoing process:

  • Washington was winding up discussions with Moscow on terms for US special forces to evacuate the Al Tanf post they were holding in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian triangle and hand it over to the Syrian army.Quitting Al Tanf is tantamount to the US withdrawal from southeastern Syria and its handover to Syria and its allies, including Hizballah.
  • US-backed Syrian rebel units are also about to leave their posts in the southern town of Daraa, having completed negotiations for a deal with the Russian officers manning this de-escalation zone and Hizballah officers. They have agreed to hand in their weapons and either join up with Syrian government units or disperse.. For the first time in the Syrian civil war, Hizballah announced an important development in the name of Russia.
  • Units of Tehran’s Iraqi surrogate, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Thursday night began crossing the border and taking up positions in southeastern Syria. The PMU, although formally integrated in the Iraqi national army, takes its orders from Iran’s supreme Middle East commander, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
  • Early Friday, Sept. 8, Damascus issued a warning to the US and Kurdish forces fighting to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State, not to continue southeast towards the ISIS stronghold at Abu Kamal. This was the announcement: “The Syrian Army High Command views the liberation of the Deir Ez-Zour border city of Abu Kamal as an imperative military endeavor that cannot be dictated by the US Coalition and their allies.”
  • The connotation of this Syrian announcement is obvious: With the way clear for Syrian and Hizballah troops to move into the al-Tanf post, only Abu Kamal remains to be captured for them to achieve full command of all 600km of the Syrian-Iraqi border. Tehran’s key strategic objective of an open land corridor through Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean will then be in the bag.

Thursday night, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, while ducking confirmation of the Israeli air strike in Masyaf, affirmed instead: “We shall not allow the formation of a Shiite corridor from Iran to Lebanon.”

He was followed by Israeli Military Intelligence (AMAN) commander Maj. Gen. Hertzi Levy, who said “We are dealing resolutely with the threats against us.”

Unfortunately, neither of these declarations appears to correlate with the real events unfolding nearby in southeastern Syria. Predominantly hostile powers are carving out new, strategic facts in that region, which pose great harm to Israel’s national security.

IDF simulates war-to-win strategy vs Hizballah

September 5, 2017

IDF simulates war-to-win strategy vs Hizballah, DEBKAfile, September 5, 2017

The IDF Tuesday, Sept. 5, embarked on its biggest military exercise against Hizballah in 19 years, with a radically revised mission in the face of a greatly empowered enemy (tanks and drones as well as 100,000 rocket and missiles) which is now embedded in Syria, not just in Lebanon.

Tens of thousands of ground, air, sea and intelligence units, including reservists – the IDF’s entire northern array – will simulate a Hizballah thrust across the border to occupy two Israeli locales in Galilee and the Golan. They will conduct simultaneous defensive and offensive operations deep behind enemy lines. The game plan is not to aim for a ceasefire and respite for the enemy to prepare for the next round, as the 2006 Lebanon war ended. This time, Israel strategists have set themselves the goal of defeating Hizballah convincingly enough to smash its morale and infrastructure and end its belief that it can destroy Israel the next time round

The exercise’s three military objectives are clearly laid out:

1.  Two sectors are defined for repelling a deep Hizballah thrust into northern Israel; (see map)

(a)  Hizballah is expected to go for the Metulla-Misgav sector on the Lebanese border, as well as the “Fatma Road” linking the Galilee hills north of Kiryat Shemona along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

(b)  Zarit-Shetula in western Galilee north of Nahariya, which is close enough to the Lebanese border for Hizballah troops to reach by land and through tunnels.

Israeli forces will practice driving the enemy out of occupied towns and villages, often using the element of surprise.

2. Another major IDF force will storm across the border into Lebanon for an effort to rapidly and decisively defeat Hizballah on its home ground. The defensive operation apart, the IDF is resolved to inflict on the enemy intolerable losses of life, infrastructure and territory.

This fighting-to-win strategy draws heavily on the negative lessons of the 2006 war, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Then, the IDF’s overreliance on air might for winning the war proved counterproductive. By the time ground troops were deployed to cross the border and challenge Hizballah, they were too few and too late.

3.  This time, the air force is practicing a different role in the conflict, in coordination with Israel’s heavily upgraded, multi-tier air defenses. They will not only be geared for contending with Hizballah’s vast 100,000 rockets and missiles, but also, for the first time, with a formidable fleet of assorted UAVs, which are designed to serve the enemy in multiple tasks: intelligence-gathering, delivering rockets and guided  drones packed with explosives.

Also for the first time, the IDF will prepare to order the evacuation of civilians, up to 75,000, from towns and village within close range of Hizballah fire. Their evacuation may take place by roads that are under enemy attack.

Russia posts troops 8km from the Israeli Golan

July 25, 2017

Russia posts troops 8km from the Israeli Golan, DEBKAfile, July 25,2017

Most of the Russian troops were recruited in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, republics known for their Muslim extremist activity.

DEBKAfile recalls that the Russians brought into embattled Daraa earlier this month to monitor the first ceasefire zone did not require Hizballah to withdraw. Iran’s Lebanese proxy is still there. Israel fears that Hizballah will repeat this exercise in the second ceasefire zone and establish a presence opposite the Golan without the Russians raising a finger to keep them out.

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Russia has quietly moved troops to a point in southern Syria that is 8km from Israel’s Golan border, in the face of Israeli objections, DEBKAfile reports exclusively. Moscow used the uproar over the Temple Mount standoff and the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Jordan to cover its creeping troop deployment almost up to Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

Tuesday, July 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avidor Lieberman and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott visited Bashan Division headquarters on the Golan for a rundown on the Russian deployment just opposite. (see photo)

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that some 800 Russian troops face Israel and another 400 are positioned on the border with Jordan. They have set up a roadblock east of Quneitra 8km from Israeli positions on the Golan. They have also strung an additional four to six lookout posts, some of them 13km from Israeli military positions, along the 64km Syrian-Israeli border – from Mount Hermon in the north, up to a point south of Qunetra in the south.

Most of the Russian troops were recruited in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, republics known for their Muslim extremist activity.

Israel has repeatedly objected to the proximity of this Russian military presence, and asked the Trump administration to prevent it. But the protests from Jerusalem went unheeded in Washington and Moscow. President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis regard the creation of US-Russian sponsored ceasefire zones in southwestern Syria as an essential component of their military cooperation in Syria and the war on ISIS.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that, on Monday, July 24, Moscow announced the Russian deployment after the fact in messages to Washington, Jerusalem and Amman. They were all too engrossed in coping with the crises that had sprung up over Temple Mount and in relations between Jerusalem and Amman to pay much attention to this Russian fait accompli.

According to the announcement by Col.-Gen Sergey Rudskoy, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, the Russian units were in already in place on July 21 and 22:

“We informed our colleagues from the United States, Jordan and Israel, through military diplomatic channels in advance of the deployment of the Russian-controlled forces around the perimeter of the de-escalation zone in southern Syria,” he wrote.

DEBKAfile recalls that the Russians brought into embattled Daraa earlier this month to monitor the first ceasefire zone did not require Hizballah to withdraw. Iran’s Lebanese proxy is still there. Israel fears that Hizballah will repeat this exercise in the second ceasefire zone and establish a presence opposite the Golan without the Russians raising a finger to keep them out.

Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out

July 12, 2017

Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out, DEBKAfile, July 12, 2017

Israel has so far objected to any Russian military presence along its borders with Syria, even in the capacity of ceasefire monitors, preferring Americans to police the truce in the Qunetra region. If that proved unfeasible, then Israel would leave the Syrian rebels controlling this area in place.

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Russian troops stepped into southern Syria for the first time Wednesday, July 13, when they entered the embattled town of Daraa to start enforcing the partial ceasefire agreed by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg on July 7.  DEBKAfile’s military sources report this exclusively.

The Russians, including military police and Chechen paratroopers, were sighted getting out of the vehicles of their convoy and taking up positions in the center of Daraa. As they moved into the town, our sources report that tank units of the pro-regime Syrian army’s 5th Armored Division were seen driving out, along with Hizballah.

Their withdrawal cut short the Syrian military’s Operation Big Dawn against the Syrian rebels in Daraa, which breached the ceasefire Monday, July 11 – less then 24 hours after it went into force.

The Russian deployment in a southern Syrian border town Wednesday was the first step in their posting along Syria’s Israeli and Jordanian borders, as agreed between Washington and Moscow. President Trump had assented to this arrangement to bolster the first stage of the Syrian ceasefire going into effect in the de-confliction zone of the southwest.

Jordan also assented, in the interests of de-escalating tensions on its border with Syria.

The Russian troops and Chechens in Russian military police uniforms were armed only with light weapons. On July 5, Putin’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, Alexander Levrentiev, said that the Russian troops deployed in Syrian ceasefire zones would be lightly armed for self-defense. Most would consist of Russian military police. This description was intended to cover the presence of Chechen paratroops, who were seconded to the Russian police force for this mission.

Israel has so far objected to any Russian military presence along its borders with Syria, even in the capacity of ceasefire monitors, preferring Americans to police the truce in the Qunetra region. If that proved unfeasible, then Israel would leave the Syrian rebels controlling this area in place.

But our sources predict that, after the arrival of Russian troops in Daraa to preserve the ceasefire, both Washington and Moscow will lean hard on Jerusalem to accept Russian troops at Quneitra too, that is, opposite the Golan.

Russian monitors for Syrian Golan – not Iranians

May 11, 2017

Russian monitors for Syrian Golan – not Iranians, DEBKAfile, May 11, 2017

The issue came up during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on May 11, and a day earlier, in a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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Moscow this week responded to Israel’s concerns about posting Iranian and Turkish officers on its borders to monitor the potential “de-escalation” zones Russia is proposing for Syria. In respect of those concerns, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that Russia agreed in high-level contacts in the last few days to replace them with Russian military officers in the Mt. Hermon region and the areas where Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian borders meet. The proposal also calls for the expansion of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which supervises the cease-fire between Israel and Syria on the Golan.

(DEBKAfile was the first publication to reveal Israel’s concerns on May 3 and May 5.)

The Russian military are preparing to establish four ceasefire safe zones in Syria. The southernmost would be located along Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan. The issue came up during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on May 11, and a day earlier, in a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, was also involved in the exchanges on the ceasefire zones between Washington, Moscow and Jerusalem during his visit to Israel this week as the guest of the Israeli chief of staff, Lieut. Gen. Gady Eisenkott. On Tuesday, May 9, Dunford said that “Israel is concerned about the possibility of having Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, such as Hizballah, so close to its border.” Both Putin and Lavrov promised that neither Iranian, pro-Iranian, nor Turkish officers would be placed in areas close to the Israeli border.

Our military sources report that during talks between Washington, Moscow and Jerusalem on Thursday, May 11, the three sides agreed to continue to discuss the Russian proposal.

Another issue raised among them was who will deal with the ISIS forces in the Yarmouk area near the Israel-Jordan and Israel-Syria borders, including the bases established by the Khaled bin al-Walid army, which has sworn allegiance to ISIS.

The coming DEBKA Weekly out Friday, May 12, also reveals positive US-Russian dialogue on more Syrian issues.  If you are not already a subscriber, click here.

Putin & Trump discuss Iranians on Israel’s border

May 3, 2017

Putin & Trump discuss Iranians on Israel’s border, DEBKAfile, May 3, 2017

(President Trump’s influence with Putin seems to have diminished substantially in the absence of General Flynn. — DM)

Israel was seriously dismayed Wednesday, May 3, when first reports reached Jerusalem about the telephone conversation between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Tuesday, during which Trump agreed to consider Putin’s plan for “de-escalation zones” in Syria, in place of the American security zones proposal. The Russian president’s plan includes the posting of Iranian military officers as co-monitors for those zones, one of which is to be located on the Syrian-Israeli border.

President Trump described the conversation as “Very good.”

The four “de-escalation zones” proposed would be situated at:

1. The northwestern province of Idlib up to the Turkish border;

2. The central Syrian province of Homs (where also the Al-Shariat air base hit by US Tomahawks last month is located);

3. The East Ghouta suburb of Damascus (including also a big military airfield);

4. The Southern region along Syria’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

The Russian president explained that the “guarantor countries” – i.e. Russia, Turkey and Iran – would appoint the monitors for the de-escalation zones.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that Israel was deeply concerned to discover that President Trump had nodded to Putin going forward with his plan, despite Iran’s active involvement. He was even ready to send a US official for the first time to the fourth round of the Syrian peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Astana Wednesday, although this process is jointly sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran. Stuart Jones, acting assistant Secretary of State, was sent to attend the meeting in the Kazakh capital as an observer, thereby elevating the former American representation from ambassador..

This development caused Israeli disquiet on a number of grounds:

a) The Iranian monitors for the new zones will sit directly opposite the Israeli border. Notice has gone out to Washington and Moscow that the Israeli government will on no account countenance an Iran military presence along its border.

b)  Israel also eyes with mistrust the possible deployment of Russian and Turkish offices along its border with Syria.

c)  Declaring eastern Damascus a protected zone would obstruct Israel aerial operations for keeping Iranian air shipments of advanced weapons via Syria out of Hizballah’s hands. Iran would be able to renew its shipments under full protection.

You can read more about the Russian and American “zones” for Syria in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out Friday, May 5. To subscribe to this publication, click here.

d)  There were also some misgivings in Israel about the way National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster characterized President Trump’s approach to foreign policy, shortly before Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived at the White House on Wednesday.

“The president is not a super-patient man,” he said. He does not have time to “debate over doctrine, and instead seeks to challenge failed policies of the past with a businessman’s results-oriented approach,” McMaster said.

The trouble is that Middle East issues, such as the Syrian conflict and Israeli security, demand patience and rather more than a businessman’s results-oriented approach, else they may lead to such potentially disastrous consequences as an Iranian military presence that is far too near and dangerous for Israel to countenance.