Jean-Loup Samaan writes: More than four years into the Syrian conflict, the Golan Heights have become the centre of gravity for an indirect war between Iran and Israel. This was not an inevitable turn of events, as the area had been home to one of the quietest borders in the Middle East for decades. Although Israel seized the plateau in 1967 and unilaterally annexed it in 1981, the Golan had not witnessed clashes like South Lebanon or the Sinai Peninsula. This dramatically changed with the worsening of the war in Syria.
By the end of 2012, Iran and Hizbollah had sent hundreds of fighters to support the Bashar Al Assad regime. Fights with Syrian rebels, in particular Jabhat Al Nusra, increased on the Syrian side of the Golan and its vicinity. In April 2013, the Qusayr battle saw Hizbollah deploying a contingent of more than 1,200 men. In the following months, a war of attrition emerged in Quneitra and the Qalamoun mountains, with a new major battle flaring in Yabroud in February 2014.
But progressively it appeared that Hizbollah and the Iranians were not solely fighting Syrian rebels, but turning the Golan into a new forward base to target Israel. Various reports claim that tunnels and bunkers are being built to prepare for the next conflict with the Israeli military.
Soon the Israelis reacted by playing a rather ambiguous game with Syrian rebels on the other side of the border. Although it was common knowledge that medical care had been provided to Syrian civilians in Israeli hospitals, the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force based in the Golan were, by 2014, describing something bigger. [Continue reading…]