The rebel offensive in Quneitra province and Druze involvement

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The rebel offensive in Quneitra province

On 10th September 2016, several rebel groups including Ahrar ash-Sham, Jabhat Fateh ash-Sham (JFS, former Al-Nusra Front) and associated units announced an offensive in Quneitra governate.1.https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cr-_7wtUAAA913B.jpg The rebels aimed to capture and secure the Druze town of Hader, which they deemed essential for government operations in the region. 2.https://twitter.com/Syria_Rebel_Obs/status/774564154858504192Due to its position, Hader can be cut off rather easily: to its north stands Mount Hermon, and the southward road leading past it also connects to the Bayt Jinn rebel pocket.

The main battlegrounds so far are the Al-Hamriya Hill and the countryside areas east of Trinjeh city. Al-Hamriya, being on high ground, is the only naturally defensible position south of Hader, while east of Trinjeh lie several Syrian Army bases. To connect with the Bayt Jinn pocket, the rebels need to push through these bases.

Fighting around both areas was inconclusive, with the rebels initially advancing but then being repelled by a government counter-offensive. In addition, both sides shelled various towns beyond the front line.3.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE6w_cDE_wo&feature=youtu.be

As of September 19, fighting slowed down but hasn’t stopped completely.4.http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=50809 There are still ongoing small skirmishes still happen, but it seems that rebels gave up on the offensive. Overall, the offensive failed to meet its goals, and the rebel force suffered moderate casualties with little to show for it. Various reports estimate that anywhere between 23 and 108 (sources differ) rebels died in the offensive.5.http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=50601 6.https://twitter.com/sayed_ridha/status/775750153110040577 7.https://iraqeye.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/list-of-names-of-35-rebel-militants-killed-during-their-offensive-in-quneitradaraa-10092016-12092016/ 8.https://twitter.com/C_Military1/status/776513788879208448There were no reports about loyalist casualties available.

The role of Israel and the Druze

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Around 130.000 Druze live in Israel, and about 20.000 Druze in the Golan heights, most of them Syrian citizens. Israeli Druze have called on several occasions to help their brethren in Hader, whether on the streets or in the Knesset. In particular, Akram Hasson, a Druze member of the Knesset, accused the Israeli military of helping Jabhat Fateh ash-Sham.9.http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4853735,00.html 10. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.741543?v=39459BBE19D39DD5840D86129D68A876 11.http://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q3_2016/Article-b01e9a4d06d1751004.htm?sCh=31750a2610f26110&pId=2100566639 Last year, JFS massacred at least 20 Druze villagers in Idlib.12.http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33092902

Israel has mostly stayed out of the conflict, with the notable exception of targeting Hebzollah weapons shipments and high-profile targets.13.http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-says-israeli-warplanes-struck-arms-convoy-in-syria/ 14.http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/terror-in-syrien-samir-kuntar-bei-israelischem-angriff-getoetet-a-1068936.html The Israeli government has also offered hospital treatment to injured rebel fighters, including former Nusra fighters.15.https://news.vice.com/video/the-war-next-door-part-1?utm_source=vicenewsyoutube

When mortar shells fell within the Golan Heights in September of 2014, Israel retaliated with air strikes.16.http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.614140 This policy has recently come under scrutiny with the intensification of the fighting. The controversy stems from the problem of identifying the actor behind a given mortar strike. As Israel has stated,17.http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-shells-syria-in-retaliation-for-mortar-hitting-golan/ it holds the Syrian government responsible for any shelling on their territory, and has bombed loyalist forces several times on those grounds.18.https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/775798218886148096 19.http://www.geopolmonitor.com/israel-air-force-strikes-syrian-army-post-syria-state-tv/The Syrian government claims to have shot down two Israeli planes, while the IDF confirmed that rockets were shot but insisted that they had missed.20.http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/syria-claims-shooting-israeli-warplane-drone-160913071925895.html

Sebastian Gonano

Sebastian is a history student currently doing his master at TU Dresden. His focus at the International Review is the Syrian and Iraqi Civil wars, terrorism and the geopolitics surrounding it.

References   [ + ]

1. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cr-_7wtUAAA913B.jpg
2. https://twitter.com/Syria_Rebel_Obs/status/774564154858504192
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE6w_cDE_wo&feature=youtu.be
4. http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=50809 
5. http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=50601
6. https://twitter.com/sayed_ridha/status/775750153110040577
7. https://iraqeye.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/list-of-names-of-35-rebel-militants-killed-during-their-offensive-in-quneitradaraa-10092016-12092016/
8. https://twitter.com/C_Military1/status/776513788879208448
9. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4853735,00.html
10.  http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.741543?v=39459BBE19D39DD5840D86129D68A876
11. http://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q3_2016/Article-b01e9a4d06d1751004.htm?sCh=31750a2610f26110&pId=2100566639
12. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33092902
13. http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-says-israeli-warplanes-struck-arms-convoy-in-syria/
14. http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/terror-in-syrien-samir-kuntar-bei-israelischem-angriff-getoetet-a-1068936.html
15. https://news.vice.com/video/the-war-next-door-part-1?utm_source=vicenewsyoutube
16. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.614140
17. http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-shells-syria-in-retaliation-for-mortar-hitting-golan/
18. https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/775798218886148096
19. http://www.geopolmonitor.com/israel-air-force-strikes-syrian-army-post-syria-state-tv/
20. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/syria-claims-shooting-israeli-warplane-drone-160913071925895.html