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Myths and misconceptions about Israel and Syrian rebels on the Golan – The Jerusalem Post

In April 2017 news media in Israel and abroad was abuzz with a story that Islamic State affiliates in Syria near the southern Golan apologized to Israel after a clash in November 2016.

I think this claim they apologized to Israel is nonsense, says researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi. Its a garbling of what took place. The garbling wasnt helped by former Israeli defense Minister Moshe Yaalon who had sparked the story in April by characterizing it as an apology.

Al-Tamimi, a researcher at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at IDC Herzliya and a Fellow at Middle East Forum, has written a new report titled Israels relations with the Syrian rebels: An assessment, that clarifies many details regarding recent incidents along Israels Golan border and debunks some myths that have grown up.

The ISIS incident is one of these. In November 2016 a unit of the Army of Khalid bin al-Walid, which is affiliated with ISIS, clashed with Israel.

It was a small unit responded to a perceived infringement of by Israel onto Jaish Khaled [ISIS]s territory. This doesnt mean ISIS apologized. They had this clash and Israel took out the unit in an airstrike and I heard claims they [the local ISIS leadership] were angry about the incident, they felt they had risked triggering too much of an Israeli response, al-Tamimi said in an interview.

He says that the ISIS affiliate is engaged in a war with other Syrian rebels and cannot afford to fight on another front against a power with vastly superior military assets.

Israel also has no interest in sparking a war on the Golan because destroying ISIS on the Golan would require invading Syrian territory. a politically unviable option, al-Tamimi writes in his new report.

The ISIS controversy is like many other stories of pragmatism and power politics. Since Syrians began fighting the Bashar Assad regime in 2011 a multiplicity of rebel groups have become part of the kaleidoscope on the Golan border. That means rocket and mortar fire often spillover, as they did in late June, and Israel responds. It means wounded come to the border and Israel must find a way to maintain relations with who is on the other side.

Al-Tamimi says that besides the Syrian regime and its allies, Israel faces four types of Syrian groups on the Golan. First are those that come under the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army rebels.

These are vetted groups that get support from the Operations Room in Amman in Jordan. Its backed by Jordan, the Gulf States and the West, including the United States.

The second group are local rebels who are independent of the Southern Front but are non-Islamist. I profiled the Fursan al-Jawlan, the Knights of the Golan, its independent.

The Knights of the Golan group is located in the pastoral village of Jubatha al-Khashab which is a few kilometers from Israeli route 98 and the Druze village of Buqata. Al-Tamimis article quotes a source as saying the group has 340 members. This is symbolic of the reality of the Syrian civil war. Most politics is local.

As much as outsiders like to see large blots of ISIS or Syrian rebels on a map, many villages have their own politics and own groups that have affiliated with one side or another, but who still operate only on a local level. Relations with each group and keeping the border area quiet, which is Israels goal and the goal of local civilians, means acknowledging this localized pragmatism.

The third force along the Golan is that of the Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, and and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which used to be known as the Nusra Front and was originally Al Qaeda in Syria.

Al-Tamimi notes that Nusra gets the most polemical attention because of claims Israel supports Nusra. This narrative appeals to agendas that would like a simple story about Israel working with Jihadists against the Syrian regime. But the real story according to al-Tamimi who lived on the Israeli side of the Golan for a year and a half and has spoken with numerous sources in most groups along the border and meticulously reads Arabic sources about them, is more sedate and complex than it is presented.

There is no evidence Israel gives aid to Nusra, some individual fighters might get treatment but no evidence that Israel actively supplies them with aid and cash the way they give aid to Fursan. It is also much weaker than it was three years ago because Jordan only gives aid to other groups. The last group Israel faces is ISIS.

One source Tamimi quotes said that Israel provides medical and humanitarian aid to Fursan al-Jawlan. Diesel fuel was given to work water pumps so the local cattle could drink. Wee been besieged for six years and no one offered us a hand of help in anything. The wounded were dying in front of us, Abu Muhammad told al-Tamimi. His group doesnt see Israel as a friend or ally, but comes for assistance out of necessity.

Although the frontline between the regime and the rebels on the Golan has remained relatively static for years, the regime wants to take back the area, aided by its Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias. Al-Tamimi says that the regime doesnt always flatten towns it re-captures, but finds local solutions he describes as reconciliation.

For instance, they dont force all rebels to disband. They might recruit them to a local pro-government militia affiliated with the National Defense Forces. He says the regime has tried this method along the Golan and groups like the Knights of the Golan reject it.

Another discovery Al-Tamimi made is that the idea Israel uses Syrian rebels as a buffer zone on the Golan is also complex.

There wasnt enough attention paid to Khadr [a Druze village in Syria] and Druze sentiments [in Israel], and what Israel wants.

He says that if Israel really wanted a buffer against Hezbollah then it would have let Syrian rebels take Khadr in 2015 when they tried. But he characterizes Khadr as a red line, that it shouldnt fall to the rebels in deference to the Druze.

In June 2015 an Israeli ambulance carrying a wounded Syrian was attacked in the Druze town of Majdal Shams and the Syrian man was beaten to death.

Druze accused the ambulances of transporting wounded Syrian rebels who were involved in attacking Khadr. So Israel tolerates the presence of hostile forces very near the border, because dislodging them would hurt Druze and create social tensions in Israel.

The concern for Israel is that one day the stalemate on the Golan will change. Al-Tamimi says that its likely a hostile group, such as ISIS or Iranian-backed militias will try to test the waters with Israel, through harassment. It could happen if they decide that the rebels cant defeat us but we cant expand, lets harass Israel.

When the situation ends if the rebels are defeated, will refugees pour over the border fleeing the regime? Al-Tamimi thinks the situation isnt like Lebanon in the 1980 and 90s, Israel isnt trying to influence the character of Syria. He also says that many people dont understand that the Syrian rebels dont like Israel, they see Israel as a lesser evil than the regime. They would never say they are a friend of Israel.

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Myths and misconceptions about Israel and Syrian rebels on the Golan – The Jerusalem Post

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Israels defense minister says life in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is proceeding normally after a week of above-average spillover incidents from the Syrian civil war next door.

Israeli media have reported that stray shells and gunfire hit the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan at least 16 times during the last week of June. They said the fire originated from battles involving Syrian government forces and rebels in the Quneitra region, on the Syrian-controlled side of the plateau.

Israels military struck back at the sources of the errant fire, which it said did not cause any damage or casualties in Israeli-held territory. Israel has retaliated for several similar incidents in recent years.

Speaking to members of his nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had just returned from a visit to the Golan and found that Israelis there are enjoying quiet and security. The Times of Israel quoted Lieberman as saying that Israeli farmers in the region were continuing to plow their fields, while tourists were braving the hot weather.

Israel captured part of the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War and later annexed it in a move not internationally recognized.

Rebel neighbors

Israeli farmer Erez Zukerman, who lives in the community of Merom Golan and works as a local tour guide, is accustomed to operating meters away from territory controlled by Syrian Islamist rebel groups.

These are our neighbors we dont like to say good or bad neighbors, we like to say stable or unstable, said Zukerman, who gave VOAs Persian service a tour of the Israeli side of the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line in the Golan, three weeks before the latest spillovers from the conflict.

From a hilltop overlooking Quneitra, the jeep tour, streamed live on Periscope, proceeded to a former Syrian military headquarters captured by Israeli forces in 1967. The derelict building, covered in Israeli graffiti, sits on the northern edge of a U.N.-established demilitarized zone within Israeli-controlled territory.

After exchanging greetings with a young Israeli soldier resting outside the building, the 25-year-old guide drove the jeep into the DMZ, a trapezoid-shaped area consisting mainly of Israeli farmland adjacent to Quneitra, a town abandoned by Syria after the 1967 war.

Look how closely we farm next to Syria, said Zukerman, as he pointed to vineyards and other cultivated fields leading up to a 3-meter-high fence about 200 meters away.

He also said Israeli soldiers largely have ignored the DMZ by patrolling the farmland in recent years, to protect against rebel groups who seized parts of Quneitra despite its location in a U.N.-designated Area of Separation or buffer zone under U.N. observation.

At the southern edge of the DMZ, the situation was calm enough to exit the jeep and walk to within 30 meters of the Quneitra crossing the only concrete post along the cease-fire line. Just ahead of an Israeli checkpoint at the crossing, big yellow signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English warned of mortal danger to anyone who tries to pass the fence.

About a mile that way, youve got groups like al-Qaida, Zukerman said. They have AK-47s, artillery. But we have tanks, jet fighters and attack drones, so theyre not going to do anything.

Threat perception

Zukerman also said Israeli troops do not necessarily open fire when people approach the cease-fire fence from the Syrian-controlled side.

If somebody gets close, we might not shoot, because it could be a civilian seeking medical aid from Israel, he said. So we would send out a patrol unit with a medic, in case you have got to help them.

About 100 meters from the Quneitra crossing is Camp Ziouani, the main base of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan.

Guarding an entrance to the camp was an officer from Fiji, the biggest contributor to the UNDOF mission. He told VOA Persian that the situation had been quiet for most of the 10 months that he had been deployed there.

So far, we have seen clashes between groups in Syria, and sometimes we see Israeli military exercises and deployments, but I have not come across face-to-face fighting, the Fijian officer said. I can say it is a bit safe now.

In a sign that many Israelis also consider the Golan to be relatively safe, dozens of adults and children gathered to swim at a centuries-old, Ottoman-era spring the jeep tours final stop, around 800 meters from Camp Ziouani. The Ein Mokesh spring is surrounded by a minefield, but Israeli troops had cleared a dirt path to the site from a nearby road, enabling it to become a popular local attraction.

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the Israeli-controlled Golan, which is home to guest houses, nature parks, archaeological sites, a winery and a ski resort.

In a bid to preserve that industry, Defense Minister Lieberman used his public remarks on Monday to urge Israelis to visit the Golan. He also warned armed groups in Syria that Israel would be very angry if they disturb the quiet on the Israeli side, while reiterating Israels position that it does not want to become involved in the Syrian conflict.

Credit : Voice of America (VOA) | Photo Credit: AP

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Factbox: Golan Heights Explained – VOA News – Voice of America

The Golan Heights is a disputed Middle East plateau partly occupied by Israel, which captured some of the territory from Syria in the 1967 Mideast War.

Israel later annexed the part of the Golan Heights under its control, in a move not recognized internationally. Syria tried to reclaim the occupied area by attacking Israel in the 1973 Mideast War, but Israeli forces pushed back the Syrians and held on to it. Damascus has continued to demand a full Israeli withdrawal ever since.

Facts about the Golan Heights:

* Israeli governments held a series of public and secret negotiations with Syria to try to resolve the Golan Heights dispute from 1991 until 2011. Some Israeli negotiators offered at least a partial withdrawal from Israeli-occupied territory in return for peace with Syria, but no deals were reached.

* Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government has toughened its position on the Golan Heights, declaring that Israel will never withdraw from the region and will keep the area it controls under Israeli sovereignty. Many Israelis oppose the idea of handing any of the territory to Damascus, because the Syrian civil war has driven Syrian government forces away from the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights, creating a vacuum filled by Islamist rebel groups such as al-Qaida.

* Israel marked 50 years of its control in the Golan Heights in June. Since 1967, it has built more than 30 settlements in the territory with a combined population of about 20,000 Israeli civilians who mostly are engaged in agriculture, wine-making, tourism and the preservation of nature and historic Jewish sites. The Israeli-controlled Golan Heights also is home to almost 20,000 indigenous ethnic Druze civilians, most of whom have remained loyal to Syria, and some of whom support President Bashar al-Assad.

* In recent years, fighting in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights occasionally has spilled over the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line, with gunfire and shells hitting Israeli-controlled territory and triggering Israeli return fire.

* The United Nations has hundreds of international observers stationed along the boundary between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. The cease-fire boundary consists of two lines that run mostly parallel to each other an Alpha or A line separating Israeli and Syrian-controlled territory, and a Bravo or B line to the east. The area in between the Alpha and Bravo lines is an Area of Separation in which Syrian military forces are prohibited from entering. But this area largely has been occupied by rebels in recent years.

* The U.N. also created a small demilitarized zone west of the Alpha line, to keep Israeli military forces away from the abandoned Syrian town of Quneitra in the Area of Separation. This trapezoid-shaped zone, which is marked by an Alpha 1 line, consists mainly of Israeli farmland.

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Factbox: Golan Heights Explained – VOA News – Voice of America

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Liberman says despite flare-up, life continues as normal in Golan Heights – The Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said it was business as usual in Israels Golan Heights, despite the sporadic errant fire from the Syrian civil war that has hit the strategic plateau in recent weeks.

At the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, Liberman said he toured the Israel-Syrian border Monday morning, reporting that farmers were still plowing their fields, tourists were braving the hot weather and the citizens are continuing in their routines, in peace and security.

He said Israel is not looking for excuses to get involved in the conflict across the border, adding that we will be very, very angry if they disturb this peace and security.

Over the past week and a half, stray fire from battles in Syria has struck Israeli territory some 16 times, including when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was touring the area last week. There were no injuries or damage caused and the prime minister was not in danger.

The IDF has responded to such fire by targeting Syrian army installations, including in a strike last week that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. Israel holds the Assad regime responsible for all incidents originating from the war-torn country.

An Israeli tourist looks at the Syrian side of the border from Mount Bental, in the Golan Heights, on June 25, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / JALAA MAREY)

Liberman also addressed the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip while speaking Monday, saying the Hamas terror group in what may be unprecedented, paid out of its pocket NIS 800 million for power from Egypt. He said Israel has no intention of getting involved, given that its an internal Palestinian fight between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and that even the Gaza residents understand this.

The defense ministers comments regarding the situation in Gaza came amid recent efforts by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to wrest control of from Hamas, a terror group that has ruled the territory ever since driving out Abbass PA forces in a violent coup 10 years ago. The two sides have been at loggerheads ever since.

A recent key development was the PA slashing the amount it pays toward covering Gazas electricity bill amid an ongoing power crisis in the Palestinian enclave. At the PAs request, Israel, which was supplying about 30% of Gazas power needs, has begun scaling back electricity. Hamas vowed there would be severe consequences to the move. However, the situation was partially mitigated after Egypt struck a deal with Hamas and agreed to truck in diesel oil to bring Gazas sole power station back online.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Liberman says despite flare-up, life continues as normal in Golan Heights – The Times of Israel

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Syrian ‘spillover’ rocket hits Golan Heights – again – Israel …

A rocket fired from Syria exploded on Friday afternoon in the northern Golan Heights.

No one was injured and no damage was caused.

According to the IDF, the rocket was probably ‘spillover’ from the Syrian civil war.

“Moments ago, an errant projectile from internal fighting in Syria hit an open area in the Northern Golan Heights,” an IDF spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, the IDF attacked a mortar site belonging to the Syrian regime, in retaliation for a Syrian rocket which struck an open area in the northern Golan. No one was injured and no damage was caused.

On both Sunday and Monday, rockets were fired from Syria and exploded in the Golan. The IDF attacked two Syrian artillery pieces and an ammunition truck.

Ten rockets fell in Israeli territory on Saturday, causing the IDF to retaliate by destroying two tanks belonging to the Syrian Defense Forces.

Meanwhile the UN Security Council on Thursday called on Syrian troops to withdraw from the buffer zone with Israel.

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Shells from Syria fighting again explode in Golan Heights – The Times of Israel

Two mortar shells fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights on Saturday causing no damage or injuries, in the latest of a series of such incidents on the tense border in recent days.

A projectile launched from Syria hit an open area in the northern Golan Heights, an IDF statement said.

The errant projectile is a result of internal fighting in Syria, it added, saying that there were no reports of casualties.

A second shell landed about an hour later.

Over the past week, the IDF has responded to such fire by striking Syrian army positions, including an attack last Saturday that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. There have been no casualties on the Israeli side in any of the incidents.

Israel says it holds the Assad regime responsible for all incidents originating from the war-torn country.

Rebels recently launched an offensive against government forces in Quneitra on the Syrian side of the armistice line.

During a speech on Wednesday in the city of Katzrin in the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not tolerate any spillover from the fighting. A shell fell not far away in the course of his visit.

We will respond to every firing, he said. Whoever attacks us, we will attack him. This is our policy and we will continue with it.

In his speech, Netanyahu vowed that the Golan Heights will always be ours and said Israel must continue to retain its control over the area in light of the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.

We hold this territory fearlessly, while on the other side of the border there is chaos and tragedy.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later extended its sovereignty over the area in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community.

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Last Christians of Israeli-controlled Golan Heights – ASHARQ AL … – Asharq Al-awsat English

Christians attend mass at a church in the Druze village of Ein Qiniye in the occupied Golan Heights in this June 11 photo. (AFP)

Golan- The small church in the village of Ein Qiniye in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights opens only on rare occasions.

Few Christians remain on the Israeli-held part of the strategic plateau northeast of the Sea of Galilee.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

Before the occupation, Christians accounted for 12 percent of the population of the Golan, which then had 340 villages and 150,000 inhabitants, researcher Salmane Fakhreddine tells Agence France Presse.

Today, about 22,000 Syrian Druze live on the Israeli-controlled side of the Heights as well as 25,000 Israeli settlers who moved in after 1967.

Only two isolated Christian families still live there.

Without the perseverance of the Adibs, the last Christian family left in Ein Qiniye, the Maronite church perched on hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee would have faded into oblivion.

Before 1967, says Assaf Adib, 57, about 600 Christians and 300 Druze lived in the village but with the outbreak of war most of the Christians fled westward to the disputed Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon-Israel ceasefire line.

Some of his close relatives moved a short distance north to the Golan Druze town of Majdal Shams, Adib said.

My father and my uncle followed the Druze families and went to take refuge in Majdal Shams.

They were allowed to return to Ein Qiniye with the Druze after the war but the other Christians were unable to get back home and were left in Syria or Lebanon.

Suriya Samaane, 72, is a member of an Israeli Christian support group from the Galilee which makes occasional solidarity visits to keep the little hilltop church going.

We come from Nazareth to support the Christian presence in Ein Qiniye, she told AFP outside the building after attending mass.

In Majdal Shams, Orthodox Christian Ibrahim Nasrallah, 80, recalls the time before the war, when no one spoke of Christian, Muslim or Druze: we were all Arabs first and then Syrians, he told AFP. Thirdly we were Christians.

Before 1967 Christians left Majdal Shams to work in Quneitra, he said, referring to the nearby once-prosperous provincial capital in southern Syria now torn apart by the civil war there.

The most educated went to Damascus, Nasrallah said, adding that two of his children have resettled inside Syria but he will remain where he is.

Outside Majdal Shams I am like a fish out of water. I will not leave until I die.

In Majdal Shams, the only church is closed.

When my father died the priest had to come to our house to perform the funeral mass, Nasrallah said.

He was then laid to rest in a cemetery shared by Druze and Christians among pine trees.

In 1984 when we had my son Iyass baptized we got the Israeli authorities to open the Banias church, south of Majdal Shams, Nasrallah added.

Asharq Al-Awsat is the worlds premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Last Christians of Golan Heights endure | News , Middle East | THE … – The Daily Star

When about a hundred Arab Christians recently attended Mass at the small church at Ain Qiniye in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, it was a turnout not often seen there.

Before that, says Assaf Adib, 57, about 600 Christians and 300 Druze lived in the village, but with the outbreak of war most of the Christians fled westward to the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon-Israel cease-fire line.

In Ain Qiniye today, he says there are 1,800 Druze while the Christian population has shrunk to the 12 members of his family.

“My father and my uncle followed the Druze families and went to take refuge in Majdal Shams”.

They were allowed to return to Ain Qiniye with the Druze after the war but the other Christians were unable to get back home and were left in Syria or Lebanon.

Today, about 22,000 Syrian Druze live on the Israeli-occupied side of the heights as well as 25,000 Israeli settlers who moved in after 1967 .

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Last Christians of Golan Heights endure | News , Middle East | THE … – The Daily Star

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Last Christians of Golan Heights endure – The Daily Star

When about a hundred Arab Christians recently attended Mass at the small church at Ain Qiniye in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, it was a turnout not often seen there.

Before that, says Assaf Adib, 57, about 600 Christians and 300 Druze lived in the village, but with the outbreak of war most of the Christians fled westward to the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon-Israel cease-fire line.

In Ain Qiniye today, he says there are 1,800 Druze while the Christian population has shrunk to the 12 members of his family.

“My father and my uncle followed the Druze families and went to take refuge in Majdal Shams”.

They were allowed to return to Ain Qiniye with the Druze after the war but the other Christians were unable to get back home and were left in Syria or Lebanon.

Today, about 22,000 Syrian Druze live on the Israeli-occupied side of the heights as well as 25,000 Israeli settlers who moved in after 1967 .

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Myths and misconceptions about Israel and Syrian rebels on the Golan – The Jerusalem Post

In April 2017 news media in Israel and abroad was abuzz with a story that Islamic State affiliates in Syria near the southern Golan apologized to Israel after a clash in November 2016. I think this claim they apologized to Israel is nonsense, says researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi. Its a garbling of what took place. The garbling wasnt helped by former Israeli defense Minister Moshe Yaalon who had sparked the story in April by characterizing it as an apology. Al-Tamimi, a researcher at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at IDC Herzliya and a Fellow at Middle East Forum, has written a new report titled Israels relations with the Syrian rebels: An assessment, that clarifies many details regarding recent incidents along Israels Golan border and debunks some myths that have grown up. The ISIS incident is one of these. In November 2016 a unit of the Army of Khalid bin al-Walid, which is affiliated with ISIS, clashed with Israel. It was a small unit responded to a perceived infringement of by Israel onto Jaish Khaled [ISIS]s territory. This doesnt mean ISIS apologized. They had this clash and Israel took out the unit in an airstrike and I heard claims they [the local ISIS leadership] were angry about the incident, they felt they had risked triggering too much of an Israeli response, al-Tamimi said in an interview. He says that the ISIS affiliate is engaged in a war with other Syrian rebels and cannot afford to fight on another front against a power with vastly superior military assets. Israel also has no interest in sparking a war on the Golan because destroying ISIS on the Golan would require invading Syrian territory. a politically unviable option, al-Tamimi writes in his new report. The ISIS controversy is like many other stories of pragmatism and power politics. Since Syrians began fighting the Bashar Assad regime in 2011 a multiplicity of rebel groups have become part of the kaleidoscope on the Golan border. That means rocket and mortar fire often spillover, as they did in late June, and Israel responds. It means wounded come to the border and Israel must find a way to maintain relations with who is on the other side. Al-Tamimi says that besides the Syrian regime and its allies, Israel faces four types of Syrian groups on the Golan. First are those that come under the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army rebels. These are vetted groups that get support from the Operations Room in Amman in Jordan. Its backed by Jordan, the Gulf States and the West, including the United States. The second group are local rebels who are independent of the Southern Front but are non-Islamist. I profiled the Fursan al-Jawlan, the Knights of the Golan, its independent. The Knights of the Golan group is located in the pastoral village of Jubatha al-Khashab which is a few kilometers from Israeli route 98 and the Druze village of Buqata. Al-Tamimis article quotes a source as saying the group has 340 members. This is symbolic of the reality of the Syrian civil war. Most politics is local. As much as outsiders like to see large blots of ISIS or Syrian rebels on a map, many villages have their own politics and own groups that have affiliated with one side or another, but who still operate only on a local level. Relations with each group and keeping the border area quiet, which is Israels goal and the goal of local civilians, means acknowledging this localized pragmatism. The third force along the Golan is that of the Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, and and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which used to be known as the Nusra Front and was originally Al Qaeda in Syria. Al-Tamimi notes that Nusra gets the most polemical attention because of claims Israel supports Nusra. This narrative appeals to agendas that would like a simple story about Israel working with Jihadists against the Syrian regime. But the real story according to al-Tamimi who lived on the Israeli side of the Golan for a year and a half and has spoken with numerous sources in most groups along the border and meticulously reads Arabic sources about them, is more sedate and complex than it is presented. There is no evidence Israel gives aid to Nusra, some individual fighters might get treatment but no evidence that Israel actively supplies them with aid and cash the way they give aid to Fursan. It is also much weaker than it was three years ago because Jordan only gives aid to other groups. The last group Israel faces is ISIS. One source Tamimi quotes said that Israel provides medical and humanitarian aid to Fursan al-Jawlan. Diesel fuel was given to work water pumps so the local cattle could drink. Wee been besieged for six years and no one offered us a hand of help in anything. The wounded were dying in front of us, Abu Muhammad told al-Tamimi. His group doesnt see Israel as a friend or ally, but comes for assistance out of necessity. Although the frontline between the regime and the rebels on the Golan has remained relatively static for years, the regime wants to take back the area, aided by its Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias. Al-Tamimi says that the regime doesnt always flatten towns it re-captures, but finds local solutions he describes as reconciliation. For instance, they dont force all rebels to disband. They might recruit them to a local pro-government militia affiliated with the National Defense Forces. He says the regime has tried this method along the Golan and groups like the Knights of the Golan reject it. Another discovery Al-Tamimi made is that the idea Israel uses Syrian rebels as a buffer zone on the Golan is also complex. There wasnt enough attention paid to Khadr [a Druze village in Syria] and Druze sentiments [in Israel], and what Israel wants. He says that if Israel really wanted a buffer against Hezbollah then it would have let Syrian rebels take Khadr in 2015 when they tried. But he characterizes Khadr as a red line, that it shouldnt fall to the rebels in deference to the Druze. In June 2015 an Israeli ambulance carrying a wounded Syrian was attacked in the Druze town of Majdal Shams and the Syrian man was beaten to death. Druze accused the ambulances of transporting wounded Syrian rebels who were involved in attacking Khadr. So Israel tolerates the presence of hostile forces very near the border, because dislodging them would hurt Druze and create social tensions in Israel. The concern for Israel is that one day the stalemate on the Golan will change. Al-Tamimi says that its likely a hostile group, such as ISIS or Iranian-backed militias will try to test the waters with Israel, through harassment. It could happen if they decide that the rebels cant defeat us but we cant expand, lets harass Israel. When the situation ends if the rebels are defeated, will refugees pour over the border fleeing the regime? Al-Tamimi thinks the situation isnt like Lebanon in the 1980 and 90s, Israel isnt trying to influence the character of Syria. He also says that many people dont understand that the Syrian rebels dont like Israel, they see Israel as a lesser evil than the regime. They would never say they are a friend of Israel. Share on facebook

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July 6, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

New Delhi TimesIndia’s Only International NewspaperIsraelis in … – New Delhi Times

Israels defense minister says life in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is proceeding normally after a week of above-average spillover incidents from the Syrian civil war next door. Israeli media have reported that stray shells and gunfire hit the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan at least 16 times during the last week of June. They said the fire originated from battles involving Syrian government forces and rebels in the Quneitra region, on the Syrian-controlled side of the plateau. Israels military struck back at the sources of the errant fire, which it said did not cause any damage or casualties in Israeli-held territory. Israel has retaliated for several similar incidents in recent years. Speaking to members of his nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had just returned from a visit to the Golan and found that Israelis there are enjoying quiet and security. The Times of Israel quoted Lieberman as saying that Israeli farmers in the region were continuing to plow their fields, while tourists were braving the hot weather. Israel captured part of the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War and later annexed it in a move not internationally recognized. Rebel neighbors Israeli farmer Erez Zukerman, who lives in the community of Merom Golan and works as a local tour guide, is accustomed to operating meters away from territory controlled by Syrian Islamist rebel groups. These are our neighbors we dont like to say good or bad neighbors, we like to say stable or unstable, said Zukerman, who gave VOAs Persian service a tour of the Israeli side of the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line in the Golan, three weeks before the latest spillovers from the conflict. From a hilltop overlooking Quneitra, the jeep tour, streamed live on Periscope, proceeded to a former Syrian military headquarters captured by Israeli forces in 1967. The derelict building, covered in Israeli graffiti, sits on the northern edge of a U.N.-established demilitarized zone within Israeli-controlled territory. After exchanging greetings with a young Israeli soldier resting outside the building, the 25-year-old guide drove the jeep into the DMZ, a trapezoid-shaped area consisting mainly of Israeli farmland adjacent to Quneitra, a town abandoned by Syria after the 1967 war. Look how closely we farm next to Syria, said Zukerman, as he pointed to vineyards and other cultivated fields leading up to a 3-meter-high fence about 200 meters away. He also said Israeli soldiers largely have ignored the DMZ by patrolling the farmland in recent years, to protect against rebel groups who seized parts of Quneitra despite its location in a U.N.-designated Area of Separation or buffer zone under U.N. observation. At the southern edge of the DMZ, the situation was calm enough to exit the jeep and walk to within 30 meters of the Quneitra crossing the only concrete post along the cease-fire line. Just ahead of an Israeli checkpoint at the crossing, big yellow signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English warned of mortal danger to anyone who tries to pass the fence. About a mile that way, youve got groups like al-Qaida, Zukerman said. They have AK-47s, artillery. But we have tanks, jet fighters and attack drones, so theyre not going to do anything. Threat perception Zukerman also said Israeli troops do not necessarily open fire when people approach the cease-fire fence from the Syrian-controlled side. If somebody gets close, we might not shoot, because it could be a civilian seeking medical aid from Israel, he said. So we would send out a patrol unit with a medic, in case you have got to help them. About 100 meters from the Quneitra crossing is Camp Ziouani, the main base of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan. Guarding an entrance to the camp was an officer from Fiji, the biggest contributor to the UNDOF mission. He told VOA Persian that the situation had been quiet for most of the 10 months that he had been deployed there. So far, we have seen clashes between groups in Syria, and sometimes we see Israeli military exercises and deployments, but I have not come across face-to-face fighting, the Fijian officer said. I can say it is a bit safe now. In a sign that many Israelis also consider the Golan to be relatively safe, dozens of adults and children gathered to swim at a centuries-old, Ottoman-era spring the jeep tours final stop, around 800 meters from Camp Ziouani. The Ein Mokesh spring is surrounded by a minefield, but Israeli troops had cleared a dirt path to the site from a nearby road, enabling it to become a popular local attraction. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the Israeli-controlled Golan, which is home to guest houses, nature parks, archaeological sites, a winery and a ski resort. In a bid to preserve that industry, Defense Minister Lieberman used his public remarks on Monday to urge Israelis to visit the Golan. He also warned armed groups in Syria that Israel would be very angry if they disturb the quiet on the Israeli side, while reiterating Israels position that it does not want to become involved in the Syrian conflict. Credit : Voice of America (VOA) | Photo Credit: AP

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July 5, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Factbox: Golan Heights Explained – VOA News – Voice of America

The Golan Heights is a disputed Middle East plateau partly occupied by Israel, which captured some of the territory from Syria in the 1967 Mideast War. Israel later annexed the part of the Golan Heights under its control, in a move not recognized internationally. Syria tried to reclaim the occupied area by attacking Israel in the 1973 Mideast War, but Israeli forces pushed back the Syrians and held on to it. Damascus has continued to demand a full Israeli withdrawal ever since. Facts about the Golan Heights: * Israeli governments held a series of public and secret negotiations with Syria to try to resolve the Golan Heights dispute from 1991 until 2011. Some Israeli negotiators offered at least a partial withdrawal from Israeli-occupied territory in return for peace with Syria, but no deals were reached. * Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government has toughened its position on the Golan Heights, declaring that Israel will never withdraw from the region and will keep the area it controls under Israeli sovereignty. Many Israelis oppose the idea of handing any of the territory to Damascus, because the Syrian civil war has driven Syrian government forces away from the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights, creating a vacuum filled by Islamist rebel groups such as al-Qaida. * Israel marked 50 years of its control in the Golan Heights in June. Since 1967, it has built more than 30 settlements in the territory with a combined population of about 20,000 Israeli civilians who mostly are engaged in agriculture, wine-making, tourism and the preservation of nature and historic Jewish sites. The Israeli-controlled Golan Heights also is home to almost 20,000 indigenous ethnic Druze civilians, most of whom have remained loyal to Syria, and some of whom support President Bashar al-Assad. * In recent years, fighting in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights occasionally has spilled over the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line, with gunfire and shells hitting Israeli-controlled territory and triggering Israeli return fire. * The United Nations has hundreds of international observers stationed along the boundary between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. The cease-fire boundary consists of two lines that run mostly parallel to each other an Alpha or A line separating Israeli and Syrian-controlled territory, and a Bravo or B line to the east. The area in between the Alpha and Bravo lines is an Area of Separation in which Syrian military forces are prohibited from entering. But this area largely has been occupied by rebels in recent years. * The U.N. also created a small demilitarized zone west of the Alpha line, to keep Israeli military forces away from the abandoned Syrian town of Quneitra in the Area of Separation. This trapezoid-shaped zone, which is marked by an Alpha 1 line, consists mainly of Israeli farmland.

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July 5, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Liberman says despite flare-up, life continues as normal in Golan Heights – The Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said it was business as usual in Israels Golan Heights, despite the sporadic errant fire from the Syrian civil war that has hit the strategic plateau in recent weeks. At the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, Liberman said he toured the Israel-Syrian border Monday morning, reporting that farmers were still plowing their fields, tourists were braving the hot weather and the citizens are continuing in their routines, in peace and security. He said Israel is not looking for excuses to get involved in the conflict across the border, adding that we will be very, very angry if they disturb this peace and security. Over the past week and a half, stray fire from battles in Syria has struck Israeli territory some 16 times, including when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was touring the area last week. There were no injuries or damage caused and the prime minister was not in danger. The IDF has responded to such fire by targeting Syrian army installations, including in a strike last week that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. Israel holds the Assad regime responsible for all incidents originating from the war-torn country. An Israeli tourist looks at the Syrian side of the border from Mount Bental, in the Golan Heights, on June 25, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / JALAA MAREY) Liberman also addressed the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip while speaking Monday, saying the Hamas terror group in what may be unprecedented, paid out of its pocket NIS 800 million for power from Egypt. He said Israel has no intention of getting involved, given that its an internal Palestinian fight between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and that even the Gaza residents understand this. The defense ministers comments regarding the situation in Gaza came amid recent efforts by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to wrest control of from Hamas, a terror group that has ruled the territory ever since driving out Abbass PA forces in a violent coup 10 years ago. The two sides have been at loggerheads ever since. A recent key development was the PA slashing the amount it pays toward covering Gazas electricity bill amid an ongoing power crisis in the Palestinian enclave. At the PAs request, Israel, which was supplying about 30% of Gazas power needs, has begun scaling back electricity. Hamas vowed there would be severe consequences to the move. However, the situation was partially mitigated after Egypt struck a deal with Hamas and agreed to truck in diesel oil to bring Gazas sole power station back online. Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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July 3, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Syrian ‘spillover’ rocket hits Golan Heights – again – Israel …

A rocket fired from Syria exploded on Friday afternoon in the northern Golan Heights. No one was injured and no damage was caused. According to the IDF, the rocket was probably ‘spillover’ from the Syrian civil war. “Moments ago, an errant projectile from internal fighting in Syria hit an open area in the Northern Golan Heights,” an IDF spokesperson said. On Wednesday, the IDF attacked a mortar site belonging to the Syrian regime, in retaliation for a Syrian rocket which struck an open area in the northern Golan. No one was injured and no damage was caused. On both Sunday and Monday, rockets were fired from Syria and exploded in the Golan. The IDF attacked two Syrian artillery pieces and an ammunition truck. Ten rockets fell in Israeli territory on Saturday, causing the IDF to retaliate by destroying two tanks belonging to the Syrian Defense Forces. Meanwhile the UN Security Council on Thursday called on Syrian troops to withdraw from the buffer zone with Israel.

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July 2, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Shells from Syria fighting again explode in Golan Heights – The Times of Israel

Two mortar shells fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights on Saturday causing no damage or injuries, in the latest of a series of such incidents on the tense border in recent days. A projectile launched from Syria hit an open area in the northern Golan Heights, an IDF statement said. The errant projectile is a result of internal fighting in Syria, it added, saying that there were no reports of casualties. A second shell landed about an hour later. Over the past week, the IDF has responded to such fire by striking Syrian army positions, including an attack last Saturday that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. There have been no casualties on the Israeli side in any of the incidents. Israel says it holds the Assad regime responsible for all incidents originating from the war-torn country. Rebels recently launched an offensive against government forces in Quneitra on the Syrian side of the armistice line. During a speech on Wednesday in the city of Katzrin in the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not tolerate any spillover from the fighting. A shell fell not far away in the course of his visit. We will respond to every firing, he said. Whoever attacks us, we will attack him. This is our policy and we will continue with it. In his speech, Netanyahu vowed that the Golan Heights will always be ours and said Israel must continue to retain its control over the area in light of the ongoing bloodshed in Syria. We hold this territory fearlessly, while on the other side of the border there is chaos and tragedy. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later extended its sovereignty over the area in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community.

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July 1, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Last Christians of Israeli-controlled Golan Heights – ASHARQ AL … – Asharq Al-awsat English

Christians attend mass at a church in the Druze village of Ein Qiniye in the occupied Golan Heights in this June 11 photo. (AFP) Golan- The small church in the village of Ein Qiniye in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights opens only on rare occasions. Few Christians remain on the Israeli-held part of the strategic plateau northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. Before the occupation, Christians accounted for 12 percent of the population of the Golan, which then had 340 villages and 150,000 inhabitants, researcher Salmane Fakhreddine tells Agence France Presse. Today, about 22,000 Syrian Druze live on the Israeli-controlled side of the Heights as well as 25,000 Israeli settlers who moved in after 1967. Only two isolated Christian families still live there. Without the perseverance of the Adibs, the last Christian family left in Ein Qiniye, the Maronite church perched on hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee would have faded into oblivion. Before 1967, says Assaf Adib, 57, about 600 Christians and 300 Druze lived in the village but with the outbreak of war most of the Christians fled westward to the disputed Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon-Israel ceasefire line. Some of his close relatives moved a short distance north to the Golan Druze town of Majdal Shams, Adib said. My father and my uncle followed the Druze families and went to take refuge in Majdal Shams. They were allowed to return to Ein Qiniye with the Druze after the war but the other Christians were unable to get back home and were left in Syria or Lebanon. Suriya Samaane, 72, is a member of an Israeli Christian support group from the Galilee which makes occasional solidarity visits to keep the little hilltop church going. We come from Nazareth to support the Christian presence in Ein Qiniye, she told AFP outside the building after attending mass. In Majdal Shams, Orthodox Christian Ibrahim Nasrallah, 80, recalls the time before the war, when no one spoke of Christian, Muslim or Druze: we were all Arabs first and then Syrians, he told AFP. Thirdly we were Christians. Before 1967 Christians left Majdal Shams to work in Quneitra, he said, referring to the nearby once-prosperous provincial capital in southern Syria now torn apart by the civil war there. The most educated went to Damascus, Nasrallah said, adding that two of his children have resettled inside Syria but he will remain where he is. Outside Majdal Shams I am like a fish out of water. I will not leave until I die. In Majdal Shams, the only church is closed. When my father died the priest had to come to our house to perform the funeral mass, Nasrallah said. He was then laid to rest in a cemetery shared by Druze and Christians among pine trees. In 1984 when we had my son Iyass baptized we got the Israeli authorities to open the Banias church, south of Majdal Shams, Nasrallah added. Asharq Al-Awsat is the worlds premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world. More Posts – Twitter – Facebook – Google Plus – YouTube

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July 1, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Last Christians of Golan Heights endure | News , Middle East | THE … – The Daily Star

When about a hundred Arab Christians recently attended Mass at the small church at Ain Qiniye in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, it was a turnout not often seen there. Before that, says Assaf Adib, 57, about 600 Christians and 300 Druze lived in the village, but with the outbreak of war most of the Christians fled westward to the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon-Israel cease-fire line. In Ain Qiniye today, he says there are 1,800 Druze while the Christian population has shrunk to the 12 members of his family. “My father and my uncle followed the Druze families and went to take refuge in Majdal Shams”. They were allowed to return to Ain Qiniye with the Druze after the war but the other Christians were unable to get back home and were left in Syria or Lebanon. Today, about 22,000 Syrian Druze live on the Israeli-occupied side of the heights as well as 25,000 Israeli settlers who moved in after 1967 . …

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June 30, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Last Christians of Golan Heights endure – The Daily Star

When about a hundred Arab Christians recently attended Mass at the small church at Ain Qiniye in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, it was a turnout not often seen there. Before that, says Assaf Adib, 57, about 600 Christians and 300 Druze lived in the village, but with the outbreak of war most of the Christians fled westward to the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon-Israel cease-fire line. In Ain Qiniye today, he says there are 1,800 Druze while the Christian population has shrunk to the 12 members of his family. “My father and my uncle followed the Druze families and went to take refuge in Majdal Shams”. They were allowed to return to Ain Qiniye with the Druze after the war but the other Christians were unable to get back home and were left in Syria or Lebanon. Today, about 22,000 Syrian Druze live on the Israeli-occupied side of the heights as well as 25,000 Israeli settlers who moved in after 1967 . …

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June 30, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed


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