July 15, 2016
- The Islamic State Threat in the Golan Heights – Fabrice Balanche
Israel has so far managed to prevent attacks against the Golan, but the rise of jihadist movements in southwestern Syria is steadily increasing the danger level. Ever since large contingents of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) withdrew from the demilitarized zone separating the Israeli and Syrian portions of the Golan, various radical groups have taken over much of the area, including the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN). And while Druze villages in the area remain under the Assad regime’s control, Hizbullah has repeatedly tried to establish its own foothold there.
While JN has no more than 1,500 fighters in the area, and IS less than a thousand, they are enough to play a substantial role inside a very fragmented southern rebellion. According to the IDF, about 150 independent rebel groups are now present in southern Syria. Some have united under the “Southern Front” umbrella, reportedly with substantial support from a U.S.-backed military operations center in Jordan. The writer, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon 2, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute.(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)