Jihadists Aim to Rule across from Golan Heights
Jihadist victories on the Syrian battlefield may put them side-by-side with Hizbullah, Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood as Israel’s neighboring regimes.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) admitted on Monday that jihadists acted on their own to attack a key military base in northern Syria. Along with the emergence of Al Qaeda, jihadists have taken a leading role in helping the FSA finally take the upper hand in the ongoing civil war.
The capture by the Al-Nusra Front and allied jihadist groups of the base at Sheikh Suleiman dealt a significant blow to Assad's regime as it had been the last major military base west of the city of Aleppo still under army control, but it also undercut the military influence of the mainstream rebel FSA.
The Al-Nusra Front has said it wants to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad and rule an Islamic state, which presumably would include a demand that Israel surrender the strategic Golan Heights.
An AFP journalist who covered the clashes around the Sheikh Suleiman base said many fighters were from other Arab countries and Central Asia.
"We control the whole base, all the zone is under our control. The whole region west of Aleppo up to the Turkish border has now been liberated. But no chemical weapons were found, or anti-aircraft missiles," said a rebel chief, Abu Jalal.
The latest violence came two days ahead of a Friends of Syria nations meeting in Marrakesh, bringing together countries which support the anti-Assad revolt.
The London Independent said on Tuesday that Britain and other key international players are actively drawing up plans to train Syrian rebel fighters and back them with air and naval support.
General David Richards, the head of Britain's armed forces, held talks recently in London with military leaders from France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, and a US general, according to a report on the newspaper's website. During the meeting, which was organized at the request of Prime Minister David Cameron, the military chiefs are believed to have held detailed strategic discussions about how to help rebels.
Britain, France and the US have pledged not to put "boots on the ground" to help the rebels, meaning Turkey would most likely host the training camps. Britain's Ministry of Defence would not confirm the report.
The possibility of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border with Israel being manned by jihadists in a post-Assad era has not been ignored by the United States.
The United States will declare the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group battling to overthrow Syria's President Bashar Assad, a "foreign terrorist organization," according to documents.
The State Department has not formally announced the move to blacklist the group, but posted the declaration in the Federal Register, in a document that described the Al-Nusra Front as an alias of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Al-Nusra Front is one of the most effective of several armed groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime, raising concerns in the West that hardline Islamists are hijacking the 21-month-old revolt, AFP reported.
The group has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings that killed scores of people, and has said it hopes to replace the Assad family's four-decade-old dictatorship with a strict Islamic state.
Declaring the Al-Nusra Front a terrorist group would entail freezing its assets and banning Americans from any transactions with the group, which could complicate efforts to provide aid to Syria's fragmented rebellion.