“”” There is a strange relationship between Israel and a small sect of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) based next to the Golan Heights. The very presence of a group like ISIS so close to Israel poses many questions.
Firstly why has ISIS not attacked Israel – a country they have sworn to destroy – from said base? Similarly why has the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) not attacked this small and weak group of extremists on their border? The answers to such questions show the truth behind the rhetoric all actors use in this conflict.
The Yarmouk valley is wedged between Jordan, Syria and the Israeli-occupied territories of the Golan Heights. The valley consists of a few small towns, the majority of which are now controlled by the ISIS affiliated Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk or the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade (YMB). This group was established by Mohammad al-Baridi, known by his nickname ‘The Uncle’ in 2012 in southwest Syria. The group started off relatively moderate, with a close alliance to the Free Syrian Army. But the moderation quickly dissipated during the course of the Syrian civil war.
The start of 2013 saw the YMB gain power in the Yarmouk Valley. The YMB in 2013 started to have military clashes with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda group who held the power in the Daraa governorate (the southwest governorate of Syria). This led to the assassination of al-Baridi by al-Nusra in November 2015. During this time, the group carved out a small area for themselves on the fringe of the Daraa governorate next to the Golan Heights. YMB continued to distance themselves from al-Nusra, while still promoting conservative Islamic laws.
The YMB in 2015 began implementing Islamist reforms through the islah policy. The policy was implemented under al-Baridi and sought to ‘correct’ the policies of the previous regime. This included the creation of an Islamic court and police force. YMB also changed the name of its department of governance to Diwan al-Hisba, Diwan translating to the regional name for ISIS. The group even changed their logo to incorporate the ISIS flag. By the end of 2015 YMB became a sub-group of ISIS, only a stone’s throw away from Israel.
The YMB alliance means that ISIS now shares a border with Israel, yet they have not acted on this. In one of al-Baghdadi’s speeches he discussed Israel, however he only referred to the area as ‘Palestine’, probably in an effort to avoid indirectly acknowledging statehood through using the term ‘Israel’. Al-Baghdadi reminded the Jews in ‘Palestine’ that ISIS “has not forgotten you.” Such messages from al-Baghdadi are very rare; this one was presumably made due to internal pressure in ISIS to reaffirm its anti-Israel stance. He then went on to say that “with the help of Allah, we [ISIS] are getting closer to you [Israel] every day.” This is puzzling, for ISIS has an armed group of fighters next door to Israel, to get any closer would mean they would be literally inside the country. So why has ISIS not followed through on their threats and invaded? (…) “”” [ read the rest HERE – link ]