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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Attack in the Golan Exposes Iran’s Growing Presence along Israel’s Borders

Filed under: Hizbullah, Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, The Middle East

Hizbullah confirmed that an attack was just conducted against a joint Iranian\Hizbullah reconnaissance operation in Mazrat al-Amal in the Kuneitra area on the Golan Heights. Following the attack, Hizbullah announced the death of six of its operatives headed by Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of the notorious Imad Mughniyeh. Just a few months ago Jihad Mughniyeh was appointed commander of the Golan front for Hizbullah.

Jihad Mughniyeh with Qasem Soleimani (left), Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) - The Attack in the Golan Exposes Iran's Growing Presence along Israel's Borders
Jihad Mughniyeh (right) with Qasem Soleimani, Commander of the
Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)

Similarly, at least three Iranian Quds Force commanders were killed including General Mohammed Allahdadi, Ali Tabatabai, and an additional Iranian by the name of Assadi, who was, in all likelihood, the commander of the Iranian expeditionary forces in Syria.  In Hizbullah’s official announcement, no details were mentioned about the deaths of Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers who were present. Details about them, however, were provided by Iranian sources.

Ali Tabatabai, also known as Abu Ali Rida, was responsible on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for the Golan front with Hizbullah’s Jihad Mughniyeh. General Allahdadi, whose real name is Hushang Allahdad, was the IRGC liaison officer to Hizbullah and to Syrian Intelligence and in charge of the weapons shipments from Iran to Hizbullah.

In an official statement, Hizbullah threatened that its response “would be painful and unexpected.” Hizbullah’s media outlet, al-Manar, reported: “Tel Aviv is playing with fire which would threaten the security of the whole Middle East.”  Unidentified sources quoted by the Lebanese daily al-Safir, assessed that the response would be “controlled and would stop short of an escalation leading to an all-out war.” In parallel, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Muhammad Zarif condemned the operation attributed to Israel but he refrained to issuing a concrete threat against Israel.

Ayatollah Mahari,  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s personal representative, called upon the world and its religious authorities — including the Sunni center of al-Azhar — to condemn the attack against “the heroes of Hizbullah.” Mahari stressed that the attack exposed Israel’s failure to thwart the Iranian achievements in the nuclear negotiations by means of a provocation against Tehran. Mahari expressed his hope that Hizbullah would respond wisely. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Iranian National Security Council, promised that Hizbullah would respond at a convenient time and place.

Flag of Hizbullah Islamic Resistance in Syria
Flag of Hizbullah Islamic Resistance in Syria

The fact that at least three high-ranking IRGC officers were killed in the attack highlights once more that Iran perceives Syria and Lebanon as Tehran’s first line of defense against Israel. Iran has repeatedly demonstrated its steadfastness towards Syria and Hizbullah as it enjoys the strategic-military and political benefits arising from maintaining its ongoing radical military and political presence in Syria. Assistance to Syria and Hizbullah and an active ground presence in both countries are seen as additional expressions of Iran’s national defense doctrine. This is meant to distance the Iranian homeland from any threat and to conduct the campaign against Israel and the West in areas distant from Iran’s borders.