Iranian Forces Pose as Syrian Soldiers to Evade Israel, Report Says

Iran-backed militias return to Israel-Syria border in Assad regime vehicles, Wall Street Journal says. Last week, Russia, Israel reportedly agreed to remove Iranian forces from border

Hezbollah fighter in Syria in 2015.
Bassem Mroue/AP

Iran-allied militias along the Israeli-Syrian border are dressing up as Syrian soldiers to avoid the attention of Israel's air force, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. According to rebels, the Syrian regime is disguising convoys of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and other Iran-backed militias as its own fighters, to avoid further Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
 
After initially appearing to withdraw from the border, forces loyal to Iran returned to both Daraa and Quneitra provinces in southwest Syria, near the border with Israel, with rockets and missiles, a rebel commander said.

“It’s a camouflage,” said Ahmad Azam, a commander with the rebel Salvation Army, a group based in Quneitra. “They are leaving in their Hezbollah uniform and they are returning in regime vehicles and dressed in regular [Syrian] army uniforms,” Azam said, adding that many of the foreign fighters in Syria had received ID cards of dead Syrian fighters. 

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Last week it was reported that Israel and Russia agreed to remove Iranian forces from southern Syria and let Israel freely attack targets that endanger its security in Syria, on condition that the sites are not tied to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But a senior Israeli official denied reports that Israel and Russia had reached a deal to see Iranian forces pulled out of southern Syria. "There is no room for any Iranian military presence in any part of Syria," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset last week.

Iran's Gen. Masoud Jazayeri also denied reports of an Iranian withdrawal from the border. "The U.S. and Israel are making desperate attempts to change the situation at the border. They need to know that it's not going to happen," he said, adding that "the Zionist regime's greatest fear is the presence of Muslim fighters near the border. It has come to pass."

Hezbollah fighters in Syria in 2017.
AP