Syria President Bashar Assad has pulled thousands of soldiers from the Golan Heights and relocated them to Damascus, at the forefront of battle lines, leaving Israel’s border open to rebel forces. In addition, a Syrian government official says a car bomb in central Damascus has killed 10 people, The Associated Press reported.
“They [the Syrian government] have moved some of their best battalions away from the Golan,” a Western diplomatic source told The Guardian. “They have replaced some of them with poorer-quality battalions, which have involved reducing manpower. The moves are very significant.”
Ynet said the move has fired up concerns in Israel that radical Islamists and jihadists will now use that border zone as a staging area for attacks, and Middle East experts view the redeployment as one of the most significant in four decades.
The troop movement leaves in question the fate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, the global body tasked with monitoring peace between Israel and Syria since a cease-fire was declared in 1973, at the end of the Yom Kipper War, The Times of Israel reported.
“UNDOF is of the highest importance, now more than ever,” said one senior Israeli government official, quoted by Ynet. “We know some participant countries are having second thoughts, and we’re concerned about that. We are talking to them to try to understand what they plan on doing if the going gets rougher.”