On Friday, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the local National Defense Forces (NDF) repelled a wide-scale attack of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Hadar town north of the Golan Heights.
Hadar is one of the biggest Druze towns in southern Syria.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sgham (HTS) and its allies launched their military operation to break the SAA siege on Beit Jinn town in the Western Ghouta region and advanced along the separation line between Syrian and Israeli forces. HTS fighters captured many position south and southwest of Hadar town immediately.
However, the SAA and the NDF quickly launched a counter-attack and recaptured almost all positions including Qurs al-Nafla Hill, according to local sources from Hadar town. However, the al-Hurah position northeast of Hadar is still under HTS control.
During the attack, HTS targeted the northern district of Hadar town with two VBIEDs. According to local sources, over 23 civilians were killed or injured in the VBIEDs attack.
Syrian pro-government sources said that 10 fighters of the NDF were killed while they were repelling HTS attack. HTS lost at least 8 fighters including Sael Hassan al-Aiytah, a commander of this operation.
As a result of the attack, hundreds of Druze civilians in the Israeli-held Druze villages in the Golan Heights protested against the Israeli support for HTS and the FSA in Syria. The protestors accused Israel of supporting the ongoing attack on Hadar town. The Israeli Army evacuated several injured HTS fighters to hospitals inside Israel.
أهالي الجولان المحتل يحاولون عبور خط وقف إطلاق النار للتوجه إلى بلدة حضر وخروج مظاهرات احتجاجاً على دعم الإحتلال الإسرائيلي لجبهة النصرة pic.twitter.com/f6Rdaezi3Z
— Rose (@alroser96) November 3, 2017
The protestors even attempted to cross into Syria to aid the local NDF fighters in Hadar town. However, the Israeli Army blocked the way and fired shots in the air to force the protestors to retreat.
The Lebanese al-Manar TV channel reported that several Druze protestors were injured, and even some killed by the Israeli Army while they were trying to cross into Syria. This report is yet to be confirmed.
From its side, Major Avichay Adraee spokesperson of the Israel Army denied that Israel supported the HTS attack on Hadar town. Major Adraee stressed that the Israeli Army is committed to protect Syrian Druze in Hadar town.
“The Defense Force [Israeli Army] is ready to support the town’s [Hadar] locals, and will forbid harming them or occupying the town due to its commitment towards the Druze sect,” Major Adraee said on Twitter.
جيش الدفاع مستعد لمساندة سكان القربة وسيمنع المساس بهم او احتلال القرية وذلك من منطلق التزامه تجاه الطائفة الدرزية #حضر
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) November 3, 2017
However, local activists from Hadar confirmed that the Israeli Army played a key role in the HTS attack on Hadar town. According to the activists, the HTS fighters and two VBIEDs reached Hadar through the Separation of Forces Line that’s now controlled only by the Israeli Army.
The local activists even published photos that shows HTS fighters hiding right under the Israeli Army fortification on the Separation of Forces Line after the attack failed.
The Israeli support to the FSA and HTS was confirmed back on September 9, when 107mm rockets supplied by Israel were spotted with an FSA group in southern Syria.
Pro-government sources speculated that Israel could support the recent HTS attack to intervene in southern Syria later under the excuse of protecting Syrian Druze in Hadar town and other areas.