DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
President Bashar Assad has evacuated most of the troops of his 5th Army Division from their permanent bases on the Golan opposite Israeli forces and transferred the unit along with its artillery to Damascus,DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
The Syrian ruler’s step had three purposes:
1. To reinforce his Damascus defenses;
2. To carve out a buffer zone along the Israeli border and leave it under rebel control.
3. To provide the jihadists fighting in rebel ranks with access to the Israeli border fence. Senior officers in the IDF’s northern command believe it is just a matter of time before these al Qaeda-associated fighters hurl themselves at the border fence to break through, or target Israeli military targets from across the Syrian border.
Assad first practiced this stratagem on Syria’s northern frontier with Turkey.
Six months ago, he opened the door of his border region to let armed bands of the separatist PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) through from Iraq and set up new strike bases opposite Turkey’s back door, to which they could flee after attacks.
The PKK took full advantage of this opportunity. Indeed, to curb the Kurdish offensive, Ankara was forced to enter into negotiations with PKK leaders for a settlement of their claims, although they are still poised in Syria to resume their attacks.
Israel does not have that option because most of the Islamists fighting with the Syrian rebels are associated with al Qaeda and committed to jihad against the Jewish state.
DEBKAfile reports that Saturday, Feb. 16, Israeli government and military leaders were at odds over whether to extend medical treatment to seven Syrians injured in battle on the Golan. In the event, they were allowed to cross the border and transferred to hospital in Safed.
But because of the argument, the official communiqué said only that the decision was taken on humanitarian grounds but omitted to specify whether the injured Syrians were soldiers or rebels.
However, there was never any doubt that they were in fact Syrian conscripts wounded in the course of their unit’s withdrawal from the Golan. The argument against giving the soldiers medical treatment was that they were Bashar Assad’s troops and looking after them was tantamount to endorsing Assad’s hostile schemes and therefore unacceptable. It was settled by avoiding identifying the wounded men.