February 3, 2015
The Israeli military fired artillery into Syria’s Quneitra province on January 27 in response to at least two rockets originating from Syria that landed in Israeli-controlled territory in the Golan Heights earlier that day.
The incident came one week after an Israeli helicopter killed six Hezbollah members, including Jihad Mughaniya, and a general from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on January 18 in the Al-Amal Farm area of Quneitra.
While no group inside Syria claimed credit for the rockets, it is widely believed that the regime, and not rebels, are responsible for the periodic fire across the border into Israel.
The Syrian regime “tries as much as possible to benefit from these events, and at the same time tries hard to not appear connected to them,” says Jamal al-Jolani, the alias of the spokesman for the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union in Quneitra.
“It’s pushing its allied militias (the Druze and Hezbollah) into these types of positions, but it doesn’t dare show any aggression itself towards Israel,” the spokesman tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali.
Q: What are you hearing and seeing about mortar fire between the regime and Israel, according to what the media mentions?
We can only, as activists in Quneitra, confirm one thing: Israel’s targeting of a site belonging to the [pro-regime] Popular Committees (Lijan Shabiya) in the Naba al-Fawwar region.
That site is considered a training center for the Popular Committee forces, and the militias, who are then thrown into the front to face the rebels’ continuing progress in Quneitra and Daraa.
Q: How are the regime and Israel acting now along the borders? Are there new movements?
The Syrian regime is very far away from these events. It’s pushing its allied militias (the Druze and Hezbollah) into these types of positions, but it doesn’t dare show any aggression itself towards Israel. It tries as much as possible to benefit from these events, and at the same time tries hard to not appear connected to them.
Q: Where were the Hezbollah leaders located [who were killed on January 18], and did you hear about them before the Israeli operation?
There was a lot of talk about Jihad Mughaniya for more than three months before he was killed. Talk focused on Hezbollah’s obvious and known role in this area.
People knew about Hezbollah’s role in the area, due to the strategic position that Hezbollah militias occupied.
This plot of land is like a triangle split between three nations: Syria, from the side of Jabal a-Sheikh (the Druze villages of Hadhar and Harfa), Lebanon’s Shabaa farms, and Israel.
Q: Are any opposition brigades involved in these clashes [between Israel and pro-regime forces]?
The rebel forces aren’t able to throw themselves into battles like these. To put it simply, they think that they are planned in advance, and that they aim to negatively impact the rebels’ progress towards Damascus.
Q: How did the opposition and Jabhat a-Nusra react to Hezbollah’s presence in Quneitra?
Of course there are clashes between the rebels and Hezbollah militias in Quneitra and west Daraa. Hezbollah uses the point that was targeted on January 27 and almost two weeks ago, when Jihad Mughaniya was killed, to receive reinforcements from Lebanon headed towards Daraa and Quneitra.
Q: As far as the rebels in Quneitra—why did they stop fighting some time ago, after announcing a new battle to liberate the rest of the province from regime hands?
The first reason why they stopped fighting on the front was the internal conflicts that broke out between Nusra and Liwa Shuahda al-Yarmouk around a month ago. That dispute shut down the front not just in Quneitra, but also in Daraa and the western Damascus countryside.
Secondly, and more importantly, al-Quneitra rebels and other brigades located there participated in battles in the middle of Daraa, I mean the battle to liberate Liwa 82 and the village of Sheikh Miskeen. This battle took huge efforts from the rebels, and continued for nearly three months.