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Middle East

Israel strikes Syrian village killing pro-Assad forces

Israeli soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria in the Golan Heights earlier this year. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

An airstrike by Israel yesterday on a government held village in the Syrian Golan Heights has reportedly killed fighters loyal to President Bashar-Al-Assad alongside two Hezbollah militants, raising fears that the Syrian civil war could be further spilling over into the wider region.

Hezbollah is fighting alongside Assad’s forces against rebel groups, particularly in the disputed territory of the Golan most of which was captured by Israel in the 6-day war in 1967.

The Lebanese Shiite group are deepening their involvement in the Syrian civil war, increasingly afraid that President Assad will lose and that a jihadist group might take over the whole country in the ensuing power vacuum.

Hezbollah have been lending their extensive combat experience, not just in fighting alongside Assad’s forces but also in using their Iranian funding to train pro-Assad militias to fight against the rebel groups.

Hezbollah have had their frustrations with the Syrian President, wishing he would take up the fight against the Islamic State in Syria more vigorously, as Hezbollah has been doing for some time. Yet Emile Hokayem, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies told RFI
“[Hezbollah] has operationally and strategically deepened its involvement [with Assad]. No one but Assad can guarantee Iranian and Hezbollahi interests in Syria, so Hezbollah is compelled to support Assad”.

Israel is treading carefully. Airstrikes in Syria, such as the one occurring yesterday, are very rare. So far this year, just one other has taken place, killing 6 Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general in January. It seems Israel, like much of the international community is split over its stance to Syria, wanting to see stability in their north-eastern neighbour but cautious of any interferences backfiring.

Professor Yossi Mekelberg, programme director of International Relations at Regent's University London, told RFI Israel has been “very careful not to get embroiled in the civil war with Syria” or be seen to “over-react.” Despite fears that Hezbollah and other Shiite militias may be building up infrastructure in the disputed region.

Israel is firing more than warning shots across the bow, to ensure Syria’s war stays firmly that side of the border.

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