Under cover of conjoined military exercises with Israel (Juniper Cobra) and Jordan (Eager Lion), the US has moved more than 6,000 Marines to Jordan and several thousand servicemen to Israel. The Jordanian drill starts Sunday, May 25 and will last until June 8. The US-Israeli exercise began this week with the participation of another 6,000 combat personnel from the US European Command and 1,000 airmen to operate missile defense systems.
Sailing opposite Israel’s Mediterranean shore are two US warships carrying Aegis Combat Systems. Due to arrive in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba over the coming weekend are large US landing craft, that will drop marines on land. Gulf units are also taking part in the combined exercise.
This is the first time that the US has unified two large military exercises. The Jordanian and Israeli drills will be coordinated by US command centers.
The two war games were planned as military maneuvers plain an simple until Wednesday, May 21, when news came in of large Hizballah military forces heading toward southern Syria to help the Syrian army overcome the rebel forces fighting for more than a week to capture the Syrian Golan town of Quneitra opposite the Israeli and Jordanian borders.
In the last few days, both Israel and Jordan have beefed up their Syrian border deployments and placed them in battle stations. Hizballah’s intervention in the Golan battle may well result in the war game being switched to combat operations for real. debkafile’s first report on the escalating Golan situation appeared on May 20.
The Syrian army offensive, launched Tuesday, May 20 to break the stalemate developing with rebel forces in the tussle for the Syrian Golan town of Quneitra, has raised forebodings in Israel and Jordan lest Assad’s troops bring the fighting up to their borders. So far, the rebel offensive has failed to break through to Quneitra – or even lay it to siege. The Syrian army command, although seriously short of fighting men man, has seized the moment for a counter-offensive.
The Jordanian army has accordingly deployed its 2nd mechanized division along the entire 380 km of the kingdom’s porous border with its Syrian neighbor in battle formation, along with its 60th armored battalion. All leaves have been suspended for officers and men serving in the border sector.
Earlier, the IDF augmented its border troops opposite the Golan and the Hermon range, according debkafile’s military sources.
In its counter-offensive, the Syrian army’s managed Tuesday to capture the village of Um Aswaj near the southern Syrian town of Deraa and is continuing to advance on further rebel positions in the south. It went into action after the rebels Monday captured sections of the main highway from Quneitra to Damascus. This step was supposed to have led to the encirclement of the Golan town. But this did not happen. The intense fire from Syrian 9th Division tanks forced the rebels to abandon the strategic highway.
To make up for its shortage of ground troops for the Golan, the Syrian army has brought in Grad and Scud ground-to ground missiles and conducting air strikes on the rebels with warplanes and and assault helicopters.
The deep concern over the serious security situation evolving on Israel’s northern frontier was strongly reflected in IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz’s explanation to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday for the urgent need to reverse defense budget cutbacks.
“The national order of priorities is changing,” he said, “and with it, unfortunately, national decisions relating to defense. “We are in the throes of a complex challenge to our resources not encountered in the past, with dramatic repercussions for the IDF. I come to you after a difficult week,” said the chief of staff in reference to the situation on the Israeli- Syrian border.
“We are obliged at this time to make painful decisions which affect all systems and all spheres of action for the reserves and the regular army – when it comes to training, the situation in the field and the home front.
“The country has clear orders of priority and on security we have already taken as many risks as are permissible.”
debkafile’s military sources report that, for now, the IDF has manned all the Syrian border positions with conscripts. No reserve units have been deployed.