The Assad army has reinforced its anti-aircraft defenses near the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a commander in the regional alliance that backs Assad said on Tuesday (June 12).
Additional defenses are set to be deployed in the coming days, the commander told Reuters. The stationing of the Russian-made Pantsir S1 weapon aims “to renew the air defense system against Israel in the first degree”, added the commander, a non-Syrian who spoke on condition of anonymity.
War in Syria has pivoted toward the southwest in recent weeks, risking escalation in an area of major concern to Israel where the conflict has been contained since last year by an agreement underwritten by the United States and Russia.
Last month, Israel accused Assad-allied Iranian forces of launching a rocket salvo across the frontier, triggering ferocious air strikes into Syria against what Israel described as Iran-backed positions.
The Assad regime has separately been preparing an assault on opposition forces who hold territory at the border with Israel and Jordan. This led Washington last month to warn of “firm and appropriate measures” against any ceasefire violations.
Israel wants Iran-backed forces such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah kept away from its frontier and removed from Syria more widely. Hezbollah militia leader Hassan Nasrallah said last week the group would stay in Syria as long as Assad wanted it there.
Opposition forces in southwestern Syria have played down the prospects of a regime offensive in the area, saying the United States and Jordan are committed to upholding the “de-escalation” agreement with Russia.
But they have also prepared for the possibility of an attack. FSA commander in the southwest, Colonel Nassim Abu Arra of the Youth of Sunna Forces, told Reuters that opposition forces had formed a joint military leadership on Monday.