Hizballah artillery in action in Syria
On Sunday, June 19, helicopters of the Syrian Air Force started transporting Palestinian militia fighters from the Damascus area to the Deir-ez-Zor region of eastern Syria, debkafile’s military sources said in an exclusive report. They are joining Hizballah troops in an all-out assault on Islamic State’s grip on the area, notably the Euphrates River valley.
The Hizballah buildup was first revealed by debkafile Friday, June 17.
It is the first time since the Syrian war began in 2011 that Palestinians are fighting for the regime of President Bashar Assad under the direct command of Hizballah. It is also the first time Palestinian forces are engaged in direct combat with ISIS.
The Palestinian troops are from a militia set up by Syrian and Iranian military intelligence officers called the al-Jaleel Forces, or the “Young Men Return to Palestine Movement”. It was armed and trained for terrorist attacks deep inside Israeli territory.
However, after Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, during their June 9 meeting in Moscow, that no terror forces of any kind, whether Iranian, Syrian or Hizballah, would be allowed to set foot in southern Syria, or gain access to Israel’s northern border, the Palestinian militia was reassigned to the eastern Syrian front to boost the Hizballah operation against ISIS.
In the last hours, the Palestinian fighters were transferred from Damascus to al-Qusour near Deir ez-Zor and some, according to debkafile’s military and intelligence sources, were sent directly into battle against ISIS as soon as they arrived in the area, and immediately suffered losses. Syrian sources name three fatalities as Mohamed Abbas, Eid al-Mohamed and Essam al-Abbas, with no further details.
On Friday, June 17, our military sources first revealed the new Hizballah mission:
Hizballah this week ordered a general military call-up for their biggest combat mission in the Syrian war since their forces began fighting in support of the Assad regime in 2013, debkafile military forces report.
Iran’s Lebanese proxy has been assigned the task of expelling the Islamic State from broad areas it occupied in the Deir ez-Zor region of eastern Syria and, in particular, the Euphrates River valley which connects eastern Syria and western Iraq.
This Hizballah offensive is designed to open the way for the pro-Iranian Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces and the Badar Forces militias which entered the ISIS-held Iraqi town of Fallujah Friday June 17 to move west and up the Iraqi side of the valley. The two militias spearheaded the Fallujah operation under the command of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guards and Ground Corps Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour.
The plan is for Hizballah forces to meet these pro-Iranian militia forces on the Syria-Iraq border and so gain control over the most important strategic land pass between Iraq and Syria.
Whereas the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq are fighting under US air cover, Hizballah is assured of Russian air support in Syria. And so, for the first time in the Syria conflict and its own history, Hizballah will receive air cover from both the US and Russia, the two superpowers now coordinating their military moves in Syria and Iraq.
This strategy, which essentially connects the Syrian and Iraqi campaigns against ISIS, was charted on June 9, at a secret meeting in Tehran of the Russian, Iranian and Syrian defense chiefs.
debkafile military sources in Washington say that the operation’s plan was put before President Barack Obama and he sanctioned it as part of the war on ISIS.
In the run-up to the Syrian segment of the plan, Hizballah is transferring substantial combat strength from Lebanon into Syria, and emptying its other Syrian fronts, especially around Aleppo, for the large-scale concentration around Palmyra.
The Hizballah force will start out by targeting the Syrian town of Al-Sukhna, 63km south of Palmyra and 136km north of Deir ez-Zor, thus gaining command of M20, the main highway link between northern to eastern Syria. debkafile military sources say that this military offensive by Hizballah against ISIS, with combined US-Russian support, threatens to transform a terrorist organization dedicated to fighting Israel in the service of Iran into one of the most powerful armies in the Middle East. Israel cannot stop this happening. The former Israel defense ministers who harangued this week against the Netanyahu government’s alleged “scaremongering” willfully ignored this dangerous development. They must also be held at least partly accountable for the failure of Israel’s air raids over Syria to diminish Hizballah’s military capabilities.