IDF says will attack Syrian Druze town if troops threatened
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IDF says will attack Syrian Druze town if troops threatened

Despite pledges of protection from Israeli brethren, military sends clear message to residents of pro-Assad village of Hader

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

In this file photo taken Wednesday, August 27, 2014, Israeli soldiers secure an area where a mortar which was fired during clashes between Syrian rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces in the Quneitra province hit in a community in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)
In this file photo taken Wednesday, August 27, 2014, Israeli soldiers secure an area where a mortar which was fired during clashes between Syrian rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces in the Quneitra province hit in a community in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

Israel will not hesitate to strike a Syrian Druze border village to protect its soldiers, a senior IDF officer in the Northern Command said Sunday in a meeting with Druze leaders on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.

Despite the connections between Israeli and Syrian Druze, the officer said, if Druze in the town of Hader plot against IDF forces, the army will act to thwart any threats, Israel Radio reported.

Attacks against Israel in the Golan area over the past few years have come primarily from areas under the control of the Syrian Army, especially from Hader, which sits inside Syria, across from Majdal Shams on the Israeli side of the Golan, according to the report.

Israeli Druze from the Galilee, some of whom serve in the IDF, recently pledged to cross into Syria to protect their brethren in Syria if they come under attack, according to Israel Radio.

Most of the Golan border area is under the control of Syrian rebels. At the moment, the entire province of Quneitra is in opposition hands with the exception of the provincial capital Khan Arnabeh and Hader on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, which remain loyal to the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army on the Golan Heights is coaxing Islamist opposition forces to leave the border area with Israel and fight the Assad regime further east, a Free Syrian Army member told The Times of Israel.

According to the civilian opposition activist, who spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to Israeli media, the newly-formed Unified Free Syrian Army under the command of Brigadier General Ibrahim Fahd Al-Nu’aimi has managed in recent weeks to convince radical elements — including members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front — to leave Syrian villages located just miles away from the Israeli border.

The Al-Nusra members have abandoned the villages of Ghadir Al-Bustan and Al-Qseibah in the Quneitra province and moved eastwards, to fight in the western outskirts of Damascus. In al-Qseibah, for instance, Al-Nusra had planned to set up a religious institution “to spread the ideology of Al-Qaeda” but was dissuaded by the FSA from doing so.

The Times of Israel could not independently verify the veracity of these claims, but a video uploaded to YouTube on October 29 depicts members of Jund Al-Sham Brigade in Quneitra pledging allegiance to the Unified Free Syrian Army and renaming it the 47th Brigade.

Elhanan Miller contributed to this report. 

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