Hizbullah’s operational infrastructure, which was recently discovered in the northern Golan Heights, is an expression of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s determination to establish another front in its war against Israel, alongside the Lebanese front and in spite of the organization’s tough economic situation. Hizbullah has found a strategic necessity to build a front on the Golan Heights that will complement the Lebanon front in the next war with Israel. In the meantime, until the outbreak of the war, the Golan Heights front is meant to serve as an alternative to action on the Lebanese border at the appointed time, as defensive operations, or in revenge for Israeli actions, primarily against Iranian targets in Syria.
As part of this framework, Hizbullah has invested considerable efforts even from the beginning of the civil war in Syria, constructing operational infrastructure in the northern Golan Heights. The importance of what it calls the “Golan Heights File,” is attested by the personalities has chosen to lead this front. The first to be appointed as its commander was Jihad Mughniyeh, the young son of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hizbullah military commander who was assassinated in 2008. Jihad Mughniyeh received intelligence and operational support from the top brass of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, primarily from Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds force, who adopted him and treated him like his own son. It is, therefore, no wonder that when the younger Mughniyeh was assassinated in January 2015 during an operational patrol in the northern Golan Heights, senior Iranian officers were with him, one of whom a general in the Revolutionary Guard who was also killed.
The Iranian Commitment to its Hizbullah Force in Southern Syria
Jihad Mughniyeh was replaced by Samir Kuntar, who brutally murdered three Israelis, including a father and daughter, in a terror attack in northern Israel in 1979. Kuntar used his Druse origins to invest a special effort in building operational infrastructure among the Druse villages in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. Kuntar was assassinated in December 2015.
Hizbullah continued with its efforts to operate in the northern Golan Heights. Iran joined in this mission, escalating its attempts to import into the area fighters from its Shiite foreign legion, who had just completed their fighting in the war in Syria. Throughout months, Iran built several military camps deep inside the Golan Heights with the purpose of turning them into regular camps for Shiite fighters from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as part of its Shiite foreign legion. However, these camps were destroyed in Israel air force operations, and the Shiite fighters remained deep inside Syria. Hizbullah’s efforts in the Golan Heights did not stop. In recent months, senior Hizbullah commander Ali Mussa Daqduq (nom de guerre of Abu Hossein Sajed), who has strong operational capabilities, was tasked with the command.
Daqduq belongs to the generation of Hizbullah’s operational founders. He joined the movement in 1983 and over the years became a close associate of Imad Mughniyeh. In 2006, he was sent by Imad Mughniyeh to Iraq as part of a joint effort of Hizbullah and the Iranian Quds force to organize an “Iraqi Hizbullah” and train Shiite militias in jihad against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Daqduq himself even stayed in Iran, where he was considered a “master instructor,” and he trained the Shiite fighters who arrived there in preparing explosives and carrying out kidnappings following the model used by Hizbullah against Israel in Lebanon.
On January 2007, Daqduq was a senior planner of a sophisticated operation against the U.S. forces in Karbala, where five American soldiers were abducted and executed. In March 2007, Daqduq was captured by British Special Forces in Basra and handed over to the U.S. Army.
He was held for five years, but for political reasons – bordering on misfeasance or malfeasance – Daqduq was not brought to justice by the Americans. Consideration of transferring him to the United States or Guantanamo for trial were rejected. After the U.S. forces left Iraq in 2011, Daqduq was transferred to the Iraqi authorities. After heavy pressure from Iran and Hizbullah, Daqduq was released and transferred to Iran, and from there he returned to Lebanon to join the ranks of Hizbullah’s special operations.
The exposure of Daqduq’s infrastructure in the northern Golan Heights is meant to signal Hizbullah and Syria that the continuation of its operations will lead to its destruction.