At the end of December, Western Journalism reported that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi threatened to turn Israel into a graveyard for Jews, and that the IDF is preparing for a possible attack by Islamic State affiliate Wilayat Sinai in the south of Israel.
The Jihadi group in Sinai changed its name from Ansar Bait al Maqdis into Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) in December 2014, when the organization swore allegiance to Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Since then, the group has become more powerful and now possesses advanced weaponry. The group has also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian civilian airplane over northern Sinai at the beginning of November 2015. Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula has become ISIS’ most effective branch in the Middle East, and the IDF believes that when Islamic State attacks Israel, Wilayat Sinai will be at the forefront of the assault.
On New Year’s Eve, however, news broke that another ISIS affiliate is amassing troops on Israel’s border with Syria on the Golan Heights. The Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmuk, or Yarmuk Martyrs Brigades in English, has set up camp a few kilometers from the border with Israel and is now attacking Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda branch in Syria that controls most of the border with Israel on the Golan Heights. The group currently has six hundred fighters, but possesses tanks and other heavy weaponry.
The Israeli security forces refer to Shuhada Yarmuk as Shuha-Daesh (Daesh is the Arab acronym for ISIS). The organization that was once part of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army rules over 40,000 people on the Syrian Golan Heights, and is only 10 to 15 kilometers away from the Israeli border.
The IDF discovered the activities of the group in the border area a few weeks ago when two massive explosions rocked the town of El-Hmidaiah, some 400 meters from the Quneitra border crossing on the Golan Heights. The explosions turned out to be two car bombs that the ISIS branch used against Jabhat al-Nusra positions in the area. Since then, Shuhada Yarmuk has seized control over some abandoned UNDOF observation posts in the region and has turned them into bases.
While the Israeli army does not expect an immediate attack on Israeli positions or communities on the Golan Heights, the 366th division of the IDF is preparing for any eventuality.
The area next to the border with Israel is hotly contested by Islamist groups and the Iranian-backed coalition that includes Hezbollah and the Syrian army. On New Year’s Eve, these coalition forces finally launched the long-awaited offensive to re-capture the northern part of the border area with Israel, and stormed the village of Samdaniya al-Gharbiya close to the border.
The coalition forces used the first winter storm in the area to launch the attack, and pushed towards the strategically important town of Hamdanieh that was lost two years…