Israeli Special Forces crossed into Syria and destroyed two Syrian military outposts in a secret operation last month, making news of the operation public yesterday.
The Israeli operation, conducted by special forces units including the Nachal Brigade and the combat engineering unit Yahalom without being detected, was reportedly in retaliation to the Syrian military’s violation of a disengagement agreement between the two countries in 1974.
As part of that agreement, the demilitarised zone on the Israeli-Syrian border should only be occupied by the UN’s Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and left alone by both militaries. It was reportedly neglected by Syria, however, when it recently redeployed its forces to the demilitarised zone in the occupied Golan Heights, resulting in Israel’s secret operation.
Avichay Adraee, the Israeli Military’s Arabic spokesperson, posted a video of the operation on Twitter and said that on 21 September “IDF forces stormed two advanced sites belonging to the Syrian army in the disengagement zone east of the security fence.”
كشف النقاب: قبل أسابيع (تحديدًا ليل ٢١ من سبتمبر) قامت قوات جيش الدفاع باقتحام موقعيْن متقدميْن تابعيْن للجيش السوري في منطقة فض الاشتباك شرق السياج الأمني شمال هضبة #الجولان وتدميرها. وكان #الجيش_السوري يستخدم المواقع المدمّرة بهدف الاستطلاع والأمن الروتيني (فيديو من العملية) pic.twitter.com/8EU8LG1qsG
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) October 14, 2020
According to a team commander from the Yahalom unit, who spoke to the Israeli news outlet N12, the operation consisted of “making our way in a silent and covert manner to the targets, placing a system of explosives on both outposts and blowing them up simultaneously.”
The Nachal Brigade’s Captain Michael Zilberg also explained that “You’re facing the enemy, you’re about 500 meters away. A mission like this requires you to be very focused.”
The operation was reportedly about more than simply forcing the Syrian military out of the zone, however, but also about countering the capabilities of Syrian forces and their ally in the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah.
This alliance between the two has been a primary focus of the Israeli military, with Lieutenant-Colonel Tal Goritzki saying that “We know about the collaboration between the Syrian military and Hezbollah. Every Syrian military establishment has the potential to become a dual military establishment. We won’t allow southern Syria to become southern Lebanon.”
The operation over Syria’s moves into the zone in the Golan Heights comes after it was revealed last week that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said he would be willing to hold peace talks with Israel on the condition that the Heights be given back to Syria, which Israel has been occupying since the 1967 war.