ISIS forces in southern Syria overran several Jordanian border crossings south of the Yarmouk River on Tuesday, April 5. This is a disastrous turn of events. The royal court and the Jordanian military command in Amman were shocked by these events.
An urgent conference was called at the Military Operations Command (MOC), north of Amman to devise measures for containing the Islamic State’s leap into more territory on the Syrian-Jordanian border. It was attended by Jordanian, American, Israeli, Saudi and UAE officers. They voiced apprehension about three developments which give Daesh a substantial edge
1. A group of high ISIS officers traveled south from headquarters in Raqqa in the last few days, took command of the 3,000 fighters of the affiliated Yarmouk Brigades, and is now working to form a continuous jihadist enclave along Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan, like the 90-kilometer ISIS strip blocking part of the Turkish border. This enclave would directly threaten the Israeli Golan and northern Jordan.
2. When ISIS forces retreated last week from Palmyra, a group headed south, fetching up outside Jebel Druze without entering this mountain region. It is now feared that the jihadis are about to turn west toward the Israeli border and link up with the Yarmouk brigades. This would double the number of ISIS forces in southern Syria and make possible a major new assault on the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
3. The strengthening of ISIS forces in southern Syria has attracted some of the Syrian rebel groups fighting the Syria army to the jihadist flag and the Yarmouk Brigades. The largest militia to enlist recently is the Al-Muthana movement. Although its leaders deny taking an oath of allegiance or any other ties with ISIS, Al-Muthana is currently fighting alongside ISIS. This has sent a disturbing signal to the hundreds of other anti-Assad militias in the neighborhood.
Jordan has meanwhile stepped forward to stem this flow of strength to ISIS. Jordanian military intelligence officers specializing in guerrilla warfare have been infiltrating rebel-held areas in the South, especially Daraa, the regional hub, for the purpose of whipping rebel militias together into a front against ISIS. These officers have succeeded in setting up a joint war room with the three biggest rebel groups in the south, the Southern Front, Jaish Fatah al-Junub and Jaish al-Islam, for action under the direction of the MOC outside Amman.
On Monday, April 4, the joint force saw combat, when rebel forces under Jordanian commanders launched an attack to drive the ISIS forces back into their former corner in the narrow triangle near the meeting-point of the Syrian, Israeli and Jordanian borders. ISIS hit back with suicide bombers, who blew themselves up next to the Jordanian-led rebel assault force. It was the first time ISIS had unleashed suicide bombers so close to the Israeli border.
Syrian sitrep Apr 7, 2016