By MICHAL SHMULOVICH, TIMES OF ISRAEL—
Iran has convinced Syria to allow Hezbollah to open a “new front” against Israel in the Golan Heights, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Wednesday.
Tehran, seeking to prevent the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, asked Damascus if Hezbollah could set up a new military front against Israel in the Golan.
“All Arabs and Muslims” are requested to join the fight against Israel, Tehran said, according to Israel Radio.
The report comes a week after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to respond to Jerusalem’s ostensible aggression against Syria with the help of Syria’s advanced “game-changing” weapons. The next stage, he warned during a speech, would be opening up a front on the Golan Heights.
The Palestinian newspaper al-Quds also reported Wednesday that Tehran had persuaded Damascus “to open the door to jihad” in the Golan Heights in an effort enable Arab and Muslim fighters to unite and confront Israel, so that they’re “ready” if Israel strikes Syria again.
According to unnamed Israeli and American sources, Israeli planes struck sites outside Damascus twice during the first weekend in May, targeting weapons transfers from Iran to Hezbollah. The Syrian regime warned a few days later that it would retaliate immediately to future Israeli attacks on its soil.
The al-Quds website wrote that Iran also discussed the issue with other Arab leaders, namely Jordan’s King Abdullah, who expressed his own “concerns” about the surge of radical Islamist groups, such as the Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria.
The Lebanese daily al-Akhbar suggested last week that Iran had “reached a final decision” to respond to Israel’s reported strike on Syria by “turning the Golan into a new Fatah-land. The front has become open to Syrians and Palestinians and anyone who wants to fight Israel.”
A message to that effect was conveyed to Assad by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, reported al-Akhbar.
Arabic media reports also suggested Syria had allowed Palestinians living there to attack Israel from the Golan Heights. However, Fatah spokesman Amad Assaf dismissed the claim by saying that Palestinians don’t take their orders from the Syrian president, according to al-Quds al-Arabi, another London-based paper.
Earlier this week, the Syrian government announced that it reserves the right to invade the Israeli-held Golan Heights at any time, and accused Jerusalem of violating the terms of the 1974 ceasefire that ended the Yom Kippur War.
During a speech in Damascus, Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi accused Israel of attacking sites near the Syrian capital, allowing rebel groups to operate in the demilitarized zone separating Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights, and letting those groups kidnap UN observers on multiple occasions.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Tuesday in what was described as a bid to prevent Moscow from selling the cutting-edge missile defense system, the S-300, to Damascus. Jerusalem fears that the advanced weaponry could fall into the hands of Hezbollah, Syria’s key ally in neighboring Lebanon.
Elhanan Miller and Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.