Bashar al-Assad Likely Helped Islamic State Massacre Druze

Aug. 17 2018

On July 25, Islamic State (IS) attacked the Druze-majority Syrian province of Sweida, with four suicide bombers blowing themselves up in the main town, while hundreds of fighters swept into nearby villages. (Six additional suicide bombers were stopped before they could detonate their payloads.) The attacks left 273 dead and almost an equal number wounded—including women and children. While IS acted out of a clear-cut religious motivation, since it considers the Druze infidels who ought to be put to death, there is ample evidence that they received assistance from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. This would not be the first time that Assad gave the lie to the claim, frequently heard from his sympathizers, that he is a potential ally in the fight against IS. Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci write:

[W]hen the Syrian uprising of 2011 turned violent, Druze leaders decided to stay neutral in the conflict. They called those [Druze] serving in the Syrian army to desert and return home. . . . [T]he Assad regime and IS at this moment have a coincidence of interests that is hard to mistake. Assad currently is readying his troops and Russian- and Iranian-backed allies to attack the jihadist militants in Idlib, [far to the north of Sweida], and the Druze leaders we talked to feel that their people were directly punished for not agreeing to join the Syrians in that operation. . . .

Assad’s alleged complicity with IS is long, gruesome, and well documented. Recently he has had a policy of allowing armed militants to escape from cities in buses, ostensibly to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. . . . We have interviewed, now, 91 men and women who defected from IS or were taken prisoner by the forces fighting it. They have told us that IS sold grain and oil to the Syrian government while in return they were supplied with electricity, and that the Syrians even sent in experts to help repair the oil facility in Deir ez-Zour, a major city in southeast Syria, [then] under IS protection.

Early in the rebellion, Bashar al-Assad released al-Qaeda operatives and other jihadists from his prisons to make the case that he was fighting terrorists, not rebellious people hoping for democracy. One of those jihadists he released, known as Alabssi, was one of the IS leaders in the battle in Sweida.

Where did the fighters come from who carried out the massacre in Sweida? Ten IS fighters were captured and hundreds killed. According to our sources 83 ID cards were recovered. Most were Chechens, Palestinians from the Syrian [refugee] camps, and some Saudis. There was a Moroccan and a Turkman among them, a Russian, and a Libyan, as well as some Iraqis.

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More about: Bashar al-Assad, Druze, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war

Iran Is Back on Israel’s Doorstep

Feb. 15 2019

On Monday, the IDF shelled Iranian-linked targets—most likely held by Hizballah—in the Quneitra province, which lies in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. There can thus be little doubt that the Islamic Republic has positioned its proxies in deadly proximity to Israel’s borders. Yossi Yehoshua comments:

Hizballah is trying to entrench itself in Syria now that Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, precisely as it did in 2014 and 2015, [before Syrian rebels retook the area]. This was when one of the terror organization’s more prominent members, Jihad Mughniyeh, was appointed by Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be in charge of the Golan Heights area and of planning terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Mughniyeh was killed in a 2015 airstrike attributed to Israel. . . .

In addition, an increase in the number of incidents along the Syrian border was noted over the past two months, with the Israeli strikes in Syria . . . meant to signal to the enemy that it is best not cross any red lines. This is similar to the message Jerusalem conveyed to Iran when it [previously] attempted to entrench itself in [this part of] Syria and was pushed out of there after a series of Israeli airstrikes.

Unlike the situation of four years ago, Iran now has a real presence along the Syrian border, while Hizballah is working to resume its confrontations with Israel. And since the organization is up to its neck in domestic problems and thus cannot allow itself to face Israel on the Lebanese front, it finds Syria to be a more comfortable staging ground from which to take on the Jewish state.

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More about: Golan Heights, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria