The Israel Defense Force has created a new northern regional division to stop any spillover from the Syrian civil war or violation of the cease-fire line in the Golan Heights, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz decided this week, Haaretz reported. Israel’s Channel 2 said the decision comes after increased sightings of Hezbollah fighters along the Syrian border, where the IDF tracks their movements.
“It’s still not at the level needed to worry about it, but we understand their intentions,” an unnamed senior security official said in the Channel 2 report. “Hezbollah has an intelligence presence in the region – this we know.”
In May, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, warned in a speech that his fighters would make the Golan Heights a new front against Israel. “Since the speech, we sent more troops, more tanks to the region,” the source said.
The IDF believes the Golan Heights, which has turned into an active front because of the ongoing battles between rebel and military forces in Syria, is in need of constant security. The Home Front Command will also open a district in the Golan Heights. Israel is also concerned that Hezbollah fighters may come into weapons found through the failing Syrian regime.
“We have learned the lesson from Sinai,” the Israeli official said. “We will not wait for the attack to come; we are strengthening the border fence, overcoming the forces and observation sites.”
The border with Syria has become even more vulnerable recently, as part of the UN peacekeeping force stationed there was moved in the wake of ongoing tensions in the region. Meanwhile, fighting in Syria continues to reach Israel, with mortar shells falling near homes in the Golan Heights.
The new IDF division, its fifth, will be made up of troops from the long-established reserve division, the 366th, known as the Netiv Ha’esh – “Path of Fire” – which is under the command of former Golani Brigade commander Brigadier General Ofek Buchris.
In routine times, the head of the 36th Division – the largest in the IDF – is responsible for the region and the border, and also for the Golani Brigade, the regular and reserve armored brigades, artillery support units and other units. Gantz, who as head of the Northern Command during the last decade was the direct superior of the 36th Division commander for three years, believes the time has come for that division to focus on other tasks, Haaretz said.
The IDF currently has four other regional divisions: Along the Lebanon border, in the Negev and the Arava, opposite the Gaza Strip, and in Judea and Samaria.