Strengthen Moderate Rebels in Southern Syria

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Ehud Yaari - Rebels in southern Syria have gained control over most of the territory adjacent to the 1974 Israeli-Syrian truce line. The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has now practically ceased to function, as a result of rebel advances. UNDOF's fundamental purpose on the Syrian side of the border - monitoring the Syrian army's order of battle - has become largely moot because the Assad regime's frontline 61st and 90th Brigades have completely collapsed. Israel's new neighbors across the Golan border include Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) elements dedicated to al-Qaeda's vehemently anti-Israel doctrine. For the time being, JN has avoided any attempt to engage in terrorist operations against Israel. Its southern units include very few foreign jihadists. Its cadres prefer loose, ad hoc cooperation with other rebel factions, including those with ties to Israel. So far, most Israeli support for moderate, local, non-Islamist rebel battalions along the border has been limited to humanitarian aid, such as treating 1,400 sick and wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals. Within the next few months, however, a wider scope of military aid may prove necessary. In view of the U.S. decision to arm and train moderate rebels, Washington and Israel could seriously begin exploring the option of directing some of this effort to southern Syria. The writer is an international fellow with The Washington Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television.

2014-10-07 00:00:00

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