Hezbollah declined to comment Wednesday after Israel claimed it uncovered a unit in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights led by a former commander from the group.
Israel’s army said the unit was created by Hezbollah across the cease-fire line in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights and headed by Hezbollah commander Ali Musa Daqduq, who was previously jailed over an attack on U.S. forces.
As Israel’s April 9 elections approach, some suggested that Wednesday’s announcement may have had political motivations as it could help burnish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security credentials.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz dismissed such suggestions.
With President Bashar Assad regaining control of southern Syria with the help of Russia and Iran, Israel is concerned a front against it could be established there.
Israel said the new unit had been established without Assad’s knowledge, and some Israeli media reported that part of the aim in publicizing it was in hopes Syria and Russia would move to stop it.
It alleged the new unit, “masterminded” by Hezbollah, had been set up “to eventually control teams of Syrian operatives who will launch attacks against Israel.”
“We are not going to allow Hezbollah to establish a terror infrastructure on the Golan capable of striking Israeli civilians,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesperson.
“We hold the Syrian regime responsible for anything that happens inside Syria aimed at Israel.”
The Israeli army said the unit was in the establishment and recruitment stage and was not yet operational.
Hezbollah began establishing it in the summer of 2018, it said.
In 2012, Daqduq was released by Iraq due to lack of evidence after being accused of plotting to kill five American soldiers in the central Iraqi city of Karbala.
He was captured in 2007 on suspicion he had helped organize an attack that led to the deaths of the five soldiers.
Daqduq was held by U.S. troops until he was handed over to Iraqi officials in December 2011.
“What we’ve uncovered today is just the tip of the iceberg. We know a lot more,” Netanyahu said.
“I have a clear message for Iran and for Hezbollah: Israel knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you’re doing it,” he said in a video message.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah publicly admitted that his party was participating in the Syrian war as far back as 2013.
Israel says a previous such unit was established in the Syrian-controlled Golan under the command of Samir Kantar and Jihad Mughniyeh.
Mughniyeh was killed in 2015 when Israel carried out a helicopter attack in Quneitra province that killed a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and several Hezbollah members, including Mughniyeh.
Kantar was killed in a separate airstrike attributed to Israel in the same year.
According to Israel’s military, the new unit was seeking to revive infrastructure left behind by the former one. “The field operatives who fill the ranks of the network and act exclusively in Syria are composed of various groups and networks who previously took part in a terrorist activity in the Golan Heights under the notorious network of Kantar and Mughniyeh,” the army said.
Some have had training in sabotage, sharpshooting and firing Grad rockets, it said in a statement.
Syria and Iran had not immediately responded to Israel’s allegations.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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