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Israel's Cynical Help to Syria's Druze and Real Resistance

By Reme Sakr

June 21, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - The situation in Syria’s south seems to have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, especially in the Sweida Mountain, home to most of the region’s Druze people.

After al-Nusra Front — al-Qaida in Syria — seized the 52nd Brigade base in Daraa, its attention was turned to the Thaaleh military base in Sweida’s west where, for the past few days, local villagers along with the National Defence Forces and the Syrian Arab Army, have been deep in battle against the al-Qaida group.

The first such casualties in the city of Sweida occurred this week when mortars landed on their houses, killing two. The attack was an attempt by sleeper cells inside the province to create a distraction for security forces.

Being under a semi siege, the Druze mountain is facing its biggest threat since the beginning of the war. According to local sources on the ground and social media sites reporting from Sweida, a meeting has taken place between the General Secretary of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and Lebanese Member of Parliament Talal Arslan. In coordination with the Syrian government, a decision was made to send weapons and reinforcements from Lebanon to support Sweida’s defense.

Although no other media outlets have reported on this, if it is true, Hezbollah getting involved in the defense of Sweida is a highly significant move. It would be a direct message to the Zionists over the border.

According to Reuters this week, the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin expressed his concern to U.S. President Barack Obama over the fate of Syria’s Druze, in the face of the Islamist threat creeping into the Druze homeland, setting the scene and giving a pretext for Israeli intervention in the Syrian south to supposedly protect the Druze.

President Rivlin’s gesture was firmly rejected by Sweida’s leaders, who accused Israel of playing its usual dirty politics to serve its own interests in the region. Sheikh Yousef Jarboue of Sweida in an interview with the Lebanese ‘Al Mayadeen’ responded by saying that if Israel cared about the Druze, then it should stop using the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to provide medical treatment to the al-Qaida groups, who are not only a threat to the Druze but to all Syrian people.

Rivlin's statement was merely an attempt to depict a lack of confidence in the Syrian army and to falsely present Syria’s Druze as allies of the Zionist state who are open to foreign intervention. Sheikh Jarboue reiterated that Sweida’s safety lies with the Syrian government, and as a province of a united Syria.

Israel has tried to subdue the Druze in the occupied Golan Heights with repeated offers of Israeli citizenship. Just this year Israeli security forces arrested 48 year old Sedki al-Maket, a Druze from the occupied Golan, for filming a meeting between Israeli officials and Al Qaeda militants near the Syrian border.

Israel has every reason to portray the Syrian war as a sectarian conflict and to sell the idea of partitioning Syria. Having a Druze State, a Sunni state, and an Alawite state would then give a Jewish state the legitimacy that it so desperately needs.

This is just how the Yazidis in Iraq, who have now disappeared from international headlines, were used as the pretext for the launch of the U.S.-led coalition’s useless bombing campaign against the Islamic State group. Israel would like to paint the Druze as helpless victims, in need of saving.

However, the situation on the ground tells otherwise. The Druze are organizing. Close coordination between the Syrian army and local defence groups indicate that the Syrian government still occupies a strong support base in the Druze south.

The prospect of Sweida falling into the hands of al-Qaida seems very slim for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as well as the Sweida National Defence Forces and the Druze resistance group Jeish al Muwahideen, active since the beginning of the war, a new battalion containing 33 different factions was launched last month. The Homeland Shield (Dere’a al Watan) led by retired army General Nayef al-Aaqel is believed to have mobilized and armed at least 100,000 Sweida civilians.

Secondly, there is absolutely no support base for the terrorists in Sweida. The Druze are considered heretics by radical Islam and the recent al-Nusra Front killings of Druze villagers at Qalb Lawzeh were further proof of the impossibility of them surviving under an extremist Sunni rule.

While terrorist groups in other parts of Syria may have found support from a small minority of Al Qaeda sympathizers in those areas, they can be sure that no jihadis will be welcomed in Jabal al-Druze.

Thirdly, no towns or villages have been evacuated in Sweida. Leaders have stated that the locals themselves alongside the Syrian Army will form the front lines of defense against Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front from the west and the Islamic State group from the east.

Sheikh Hussein Jarboue confirmed that there will be no concessions or negotiations made with the militants attacking the Druze homeland. This is contrary to the stance of Lebanese Druze politician Walid Joumblatt, who called for the Syrians to desert their army and agree to a settlement with al-Nusra Front.

Anyone following the conflict must understand that the events currently unfolding in Sweida are not a threat to the Druze only, but a threat to the whole of Syria. Just like the attacks on Kobani and other places before, an attack on Sweida threatens Syria’s unity and distinct pluralist fabric.

While there is a constant effort to report the Syrian war in sectarian terms, the truth is that the extremist terrorist groups are a threat not just to minorities or even just Syria, but to the whole region.

Reme Sakr is a Syrian-Australian journalist and political activist.

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