TEL AVIV – A purported new Syrian terror group claimed in a WND interview it attempted its first-ever attack against the Jewish state this weekend by placing mines on the Israeli side of the border.
WND was put in touch through officials from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath party with a man claiming to be a leader of the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, a group that said it formed in Syria in June and is modeling itself after the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.
The Committees leader claimed his organization was responsible for placing six unexploded mines Saturday morning within northern Israeli territory in the Golan Heights. He said the mines were intended to explode in an attack against an Israeli military unit that patrols the area. He claimed more attacks would follow unless Israel withdraws from the Golan Heights.
The mines originated in an Israeli minefield that lies in a narrow, United Nations-patrolled buffer zone between the Israeli border and Syrian territory. The Israeli Defense Forces came across the mines Saturday night during a routine patrol, and called in sappers (military demolitions specialists) to disarm them. Israel plans to file a complaint this week with the U.N. for what it says was the international body’s failure to maintain the buffer zone.
IDF officials immediately guessed the mines were thrown into Israel as a provocation by local Syrian shepherds, but they admitted such an occurrence would be highly unusual. The officials said the mines were thrown over the border this weekend, ruling out the possibility the explosives had been washed into Israel by the heavy rains.
The Syrian Committees for the Liberation of the Golan first announced its establishment in a widely circulated exclusive interview with WND last August.
Last month, the Committees claimed it was holding a missing Israeli soldier and will free the captive in exchange for nine Syrians held in Israeli jails. In a faxed a statement to reporters addressing “the Zionists,” the Committees offered a prisoner-swap deal for Israeli soldier Guy Hever, who has been missing since 1997 and who the group claimed is in its custody. Hever disappeared in the Golan Heights near the Syrian border.
In August, and again during a second, in-person interview with WND in December, leaders for the Syrian group threatened if Israel does not vacate the Golan Heights within months, the group will launch “resistance operations” against Israeli positions and Jewish communities in the Golan Heights.
An official from Assad’s Baath party who said he was associated with the Committees told WND Syria learned from Hezbollah’s military campaign against Israel that “fighting” is more effective than peace negotiations with regard to gaining territory.”
Hezbollah claims its goal is to liberate the Shebaa Farms, a small, 12-square-mile bloc situated between Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The cease-fire resolution accepted by Israel to end its military campaign in Lebanon this past summer calls for negotiations leading to Israel’s relinquishing of the Shebaa Farms.
The Baath official told WND Syria’s new Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights consists of Syrian volunteers, many from the Syrian border with Turkey and from Palestinian refugee camps near Damascus. He said Syria held registration for volunteers to join the Committees in June.
The official said attacks by the Committees may include the infiltration of Jewish communities in the Golan, rocket attacks against Israeli positions or raids of Golan-based Israeli military installations. He said all attacks would be launched from the Syrian side of the border.
The Golan Heights is strategic mountainous territory captured by the Jewish state after Syria used the terrain to attack Israel in 1967 and again in 1973. The Heights looks down on major Syrian and Israeli population centers, but there are a few areas where the Israeli and Syrian sides are level.
Military officials here long have maintained returning the Golan Heights to Syria would grant Damascus the ability to mount an effective ground invasion of the Jewish state.
The Heights has a population of about 35,000 – approximately 18,000 Jewish residents and 17,000 Arabs, mostly Druze. The Arab residents retain their Syrian citizenship, but under Israeli law they can also sue for Israeli citizenship. About a dozen officials from Assad’s Baath party live and operate in the Golan.
Israeli security officials in December confirmed the establishment of a Hezbollah-like Syrian group, but said it was still in its infancy stages and likely could not carry out attacks.
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