- International media reports citing Assad regime sources have claimed that Israel struck a military base, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Sunday. The alleged strike targeted the National Defense Forces, a pro-Assad regime militia. According to at least one report, 3 members of the militia were killed and 2 were injured in a missile strike.
- Officially, Israel has declined to comment. Israeli defense sources cited in Hebrew media reports issued a denial of involvement.
- The Syrian regime and Iran established ‘popular militias’ to assist the depleted and tired Syrian Arab Army, after more than six years of warfare. According to MEMRI, these militias are modelled on the Iranian Besij force, and Iran has played a substantial role in setting up and shaping these armed groups (including the deployment of Shi’ite fighters from all over the region to Syria).
- The National Defense Forces has direct ties to Iran, according to the MEMRI report, which states: “This was clearly indicated by IRGC official Hossein Hamadani, who said that ‘one result of [Iran’s] presence [in Syria]… was the establishment of a type of Basij known as the ‘National Defense.’ Syrian oppositionist websites and anti-Syrian regime media specifically point to the role played by IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in the establishment of these groups and in guiding them.
- “The establishment of the National Defense was like an angel of salvation for the Syrian people… The National Defense in Syria has some 100,000 members and has managed to liberate many territories with the assistance of the Syrian army.” — IRGC official Hossein Hamadani
National Defense Forces emblem
- Earlier this month, the National Defense Forces released a video in which they trained in storming an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) position.
- In March, international media reports said an Israeli drone struck a vehicle travelling in the Syrian Golan carrying National Defense Forces member Yasser Hussein Sayyad.
- In March, Prime Minister Netanyahu made the following statement: “I will make clear that we are determined to prevent Iran from tightening its grip on Syria, either on the ground or in the seas. Likewise, we will strongly oppose the presence of Shia militias in our midst, or near us, including the arming of Hezbollah with dangerous weapons.”
- On Friday, the IDF struck Assad regime positions in retaliation to two cross-border projectiles that landed on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.