Israel is concerned that an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—a U.S.-designated terror group—called the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, may possess chemical weapons and be planning an attack near the Israeli-Syrian border.
The Times of Israel (“Israel fears IS affiliate on Syrian border holds chemical weapons,” April 27, 2016) noted that Israeli “Defense officials are concerned that an Islamic State affiliate operating near the Syrian border with Israel has acquired chemicals weapons and may be planning to test them.”
According to a report by Israel’s Channel 10 station, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade are currently preoccupied with fighting other groups in the Syrian civil war. For this reason, the terrorist group has not directed operations against Israel. However, “officials fear this may well change in the future.”
Israeli concerns may be based on the fact that ISIS has shown a willingness to use chemical weapons—and that the terrorist organization repeatedly has called for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jews.
The Syrian government has claimed that the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade used chemical weapons against its troops at an airbase in the eastern part of the country on April 5, 2016 (“IS said to carry out deadly chemical attack on Syrian army,” Times of Israel, April 5, 2016)
On March 9, ISIS reportedly used chemical weapons on the town of Taza, south of Kirkuk, Iraq. The attack wounded at least 1,500 people and killed three children.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit organization that translates Arab and Iranian media, noted that ISIS released a video in November 2015 entitled “And Then They Will Be Vanquished.” The video contained a threat to attack Israel. At its conclusion, an ISIS terrorist quotes a well-known hadith (sayings Islamic traditions attribute to Muhammed):
“Judgement Day will not come until you fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and trees will call, ‘O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him—except for the gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews.’”
As CAMERA has noted (“In Wake of Flotilla, NPR Coverage is Listing,” June 6, 2010), this hadith has commonly been used by others, such as Hamas, the U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
U.N. Watch, a non-profit organization that seeks to hold the U.N. accountable to its charter, noted that employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have been caught sharing cartoons on social media that show—per the hadith—Jews hiding behind trees that are in turn calling out to an Arab Muslim armed with an assault rifle (“Antisemitic UNRWA Teachers’ Facebook Pages Spark War of Words With Watchdog Group,” The Algemeiner, Sept. 4, 2015).
As The Washington Post has noted (“In Israel, Putin’s surprise move stirs fears of a power vacuum on Syrian border,” March 17, 2016), the Syrian civil war and subsequent Russian intervention has produced a concern that on Israel’s “northern edge, there was fear that a vacuum in the war-torn country allow Israel’s enemies” to attack the Jewish state. Such a vacuum conceivably would exist if Israel withdrew from the Golan Heights. Israel has held the Golan since the 1967 Six-Day War, when the armed forces of Syria, Egypt and other Arab nations massed on Israel’s borders and blocked its Red Sea shipping.
On April 26, 2016 the United Nations Security Council rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in a cabinet meeting that “the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”
In response to the U.N.S.C.’s condemnation, Netanyahu pointed out, “The Security Council’s announcement ignores the reality in Syria. Who is Israel supposed to negotiate with about the future of the Golan? Islamic State? Al-Qaeda? Hezbollah? The Iranian and Syrian forces which have slaughtered thousands of people? In view of the war raging in Syria and the stability and security of the Golan Heights that Israel has established over nearly 50 years, the suggestion that Israel will leave the Golan Heights is unreasonable.”
In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed on October 6, 2015, Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. State Department senior official who worked for nearly two decades on Arab-Israeli negotiations, wrote that U.S. pressure on Israel in the 1990s to give up the Golan in a deal with Syria was a mistake (“What if Israel Had Given Up the Golan Heights? A Lesson for Syria’s Crisis”). Miller noted that “had Israel given up the Golan, the situation today would have been much more complex….Israel would have faced a hot front confronting Hezbollah, Iran, and a range of Islamist jihadis. Given the Golan’s strategic importance, Israel would have had to reoccupy it.”
The lesson, Miller wrote, was that “withdrawal from Gaza produced Hamas. Leaving the Golan could have produced worse.”
Yet, with an ISIS affiliate on the Golan reportedly having acquired chemical weapons and perhaps plotting an attack on the Jewish state, it doesn’t seem to be a lesson that the U.N., with its knee-jerk anti-Israel proclivities, is interested in learning.