Syria is building up its ground forces to pre-war size according to Israel.
On August 7th, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke in front of reporters during a tour of the Golan Heights. “Across the way we see the Syrian military, which is not satisfied with just taking over all of Syrian territory but is expressly building a broad-based, new ground army that will return to its previous proportions and beyond,” Lieberman commented. He also added that Israel follows all developments and is ready for any scenario.
Thus, Syria seems to be recovering from the seven-year conflict with foreign-backed groups. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army has recovered from a critical manpower shortage earlier in the war.
On August 2nd, Liebermann focused on the fact that Assad is regaining control of Syrian territory and that stability is returning to the Golan Heights. This comes in a large part thanks to the support of Syria’s allies in the face of Iran, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. They Syrian army has had significant success against the militant groups, many of which are supported by Israel, the US and allies.
Liebermann’s visit to the Golan Heights comes when the Syrian army has all but defeated the militants in the southern parts of the country. According to PressTV, the recapture of those areas would cut Israel’s contacts with anti-Damascus militants and will deal a huge blow to Tel Aviv’s plans to make the international community recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights, which was seized in 1967.
Israel and Syria have fought three wars in the past, with them coming to an end with the 1974 disengagement of forces deal. However, with Assad regaining control of the country Tel Aviv has expressed concerns that the Syrian president may defy the 44-year deal and destabilize the Syria-Israel situation. The Golan was the battlefield of large tank battles in 1967 and in the Israel-Syrian war in 1973. Israel annexed its part of the Golan Heights in 1981, however the move is yet to be internationally recognized.
Reuters also cited Liebermann who in a twitter post said that Israel’s battle tanks were deployed on the strategic plateau that it captured in the 1967 war and that they are “our crushing strike force and will know how to defend the border in any eventuality.”
Regarding the Syrian army’s recent success, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Russia on July 11th. Reuters cited Netanyahu that Israel would not attempt to unseat Assad, however he would expect Russia to influence the Iranian military advisors to leave Syria. However, no such actions have been undertaken by Russia.
President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia and the US would secure Israel’s border with Syria in accordance with the 1974 disengagement of forces deal. The announcement was made on July 16th’s press conference after the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki. He stressed that the move would “restore quiet to the Golan Height, bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also provide security to the state of Israel.”
Furthermore, an anonymous Russian diplomat, cited by Times of Israel on July 19th, said that Israel and Syria have agreed to return to the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement drawn up in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and that it will be implemented when Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has fully wrestled control of the border region from the opposing factions. Since the Times of Israel report on July 19th, the Syrian army has restored control over the border region and Russian military police has assisted the UN Mission to reopen the Syrian pass to Golan Heights and reimpose the 1974 disengagement agreement.