Additionally, the IDF’s 210 Habashan Division, which defends the Golan Heights, is also closely watching an ISIS-affiliated militia, made up of some 600 members armed with tanks, mortars, and other weaponry, called Shahaha Yarmuk, which could decide to launch an attack on Israel in the future.
Both the Islamic State and Shahada Yarmuk are fighting al-Qaida’s Al Nusra Front in Syria, and the ongoing battles between them, as well as battles with the Syrian regime, mean there is no likely immediate threat of an attack by the array of global jihadists in the area.
There are a few thousand Al-Nusra Front members on the Syrian Golan Heights near Israel, including near Mount Hermon.
The jihadist-salafi forces had attempted in recent months to move towards the Lebanese border, but were blocked by a Hezbollah offensive aimed at defending the Shi’ite organization’s home turf of Lebanon from their approach.
Similarly, attempts by Syrian jihadists to seize the Quneitra to Damascus road have failed since Russia’s air campaign to save the Assad regime began – the same air campaign that might result in the Islamic State retreating southwards, towards Israel.
Intelligence-gathering activities within the IDF’s Northern Command have increased dramatically to keep up with all of the recent events, and track the capabilities and intentions of every armed group in southern Syria.
Security sources have described the intelligence task as very challenging.
According to IDF intelligence assessments, the foreign elements in Jabhat Al-Nusra, who make up some 15% of the organization, are more keen to attack Israel, while the majority – local Syrian members – resisted the idea, due to their connection to the land, family members in the area, and reluctance to open yet another front. It remains unclear whether this reluctance is sufficient to prevent an Al-Nusra attack on Israel in the future.
To that end, the IDF’s 210 Division is preparing its responses to a host of incidents, from strategic terrorist attacks such as attempts to get bomb-laden vehicles into Israel, to rocket fire, to cross-border infiltration attempts.
Shuhada Yarmuk, described by security sources as “Shuha-da’ash” in reference to its connection to the Islamic tate, is located just 10 to 15 kilometers from the Israeli border, and is under close Israeli monitoring. The organization rules over some 40,000 Syrians, and though it is affiliated with ISIS, it maintains some autonomy as well.
The radical Islamist organization lost its leader in a Jabhat Al-Nusra twin suicide bomb attack on its headquarters in recent weeks, but receives assistance from ISIS when needed, including funds and weapons.
In revenge, the organization blew up a vehicle containing a Jabhat Al-Nusra commander just 400 meters from the Israeli border on the northern Golan Heights.
Additionally, security sources said they are prepared for the possibility of a return to the northern Golan area by Syrian regime military forces in the coming months, due to Russian and Iranian support, creating a situation in which the northern Golan is bordered by Assad loyalist forces and the southern Golan is bordered by Salafi-jihadi organizations.
As part of the IDF’s preparations, field commanders have been given greater autonomy to make real-time decisions during potential cross-border incidents, the border fence has been beefed up with a new layer, mounds have been dug, and an array of border intelligence sensors feed control rooms around the clock.
Separately, security sources, referring to recent threats by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to revenge the killing of terrorist Samir Kuntar in Damascus, said they are taking the threats to attack very seriously, while adding that Nasrallah is also taking into account Israeli counter-threats to respond forcefully to any attack.