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Golan Regiment
فوج الجولان
Fouj al-Joulan

Participant in Syrian Civil War
Flag of Syria.svg
The Golan Regiment generally uses the Ba'athist flag of Syria as logo.[1]
Active 2011–14 (as rebel group)[2]
2014–present (as pro-government unit)[2]
Ideology Druze interests[3]
Anti-Zionism[3]
Groups Fist Battalion[3]
Leaders
Headquarters Khan Arnabah[2]
Area of
operations
Syria
Originated as Syrian opposition al-Mutasim Battalion
Allies Syria Syrian Armed Forces
Hezbollah
Quneitra Hawks Brigade[6]
Opponents Syrian opposition Syrian opposition and allied mujahideen
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
 Israel[2][3]
Battles/wars

Syrian Civil War

The Golan Regiment (Arabic: فوج الجولان, Fouj al-Joulan) is a militia based in Khan Arnabah[2] that is part of the National Defence Forces (NDF).[3] Though primarily active in the Golan Heights, the unit has been deployed in various warzones of western Syria, fighting against many different Syrian opposition forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[3] The Golan Regiment is notable insofar as it was the first government unit during the Syrian Civil War that was founded by Free Syrian Army (FSA) defectors.[1][2]

History

Rebellion and return to the government side

File:Al-Mutasim Battalion formation.png

The al-Mutasim Battalion announces its formation, declaring that it intends to defend the "great revolution" against the "corrupt" Assad government and its "thugs" and "mercenaries".

The beginnings of the Golan Regiment trace back to 2011, when its later leader Majid Himoud volunteered for the Syrian Army.[1] According to Himoud, the officers in his division abused him and other soldiers, whereupon they decided to defect. In December 2011, they formed a Free Syrian Army unit under Himoud's leadership, the al-Mutasim Battalion, and began to fight against the government near the border to Israel. Allied with other local rebel groups, Himoud's men fought at Jabata, Khan Arnabah, Madinat al-Baath, Beer Ajam, and Breika, and made good progress against the government. As time went on, however, Himoud became increasingly dissatisfied with his allies; he later claimed that some groups such as Alwiya al-Furqan "wouldn’t even fight, they would come to the battlefield after the clashes had ended, take pictures and videos next to destroyed buildings and tanks, and then send them back to their financiers in Jordan or the Gulf states in order to collect their paychecks". Others he accused of closely working with Israel, which he considered a "red line" Syrians should not cross.[2][lower-alpha 2] These factors led Himoud and many of his men reconsider their role as rebels, and in late 2013 he eventually contacted the mayor of Khan Arnabah, who was his relative[2] and the NDF commander whose troops he was primarily fighting.[1] The two agreed to a local ceasefire, and after eight months of negotiations, Himoud and dozens of his fighters handed themselves over to the government. They received an amnesty by president Bashar al-Assad,[1] and formed the "Golan Regiment" as National Defence Forces unit/Popular Committee,[16] centered in Khan Arnabah.[2] The al-Mutasim Battalion members who disagreed with Himoud's decision and refused to defect instead joined other rebel groups.[2] Since its foundation, the Golan Regiment has grown by recruiting government loyalists into its ranks,[2] for example from Hader,[17] a mostly Druze town that is generally considered to be staunchly pro-Assad.[18]

As NDF unit

Fighting in northern Quneitra 2015–16

In course of the Quneitra offensive in June 2015, the Golan Regiment and the Quneitra Hawks Brigade first held two strategic significant hills against numerous rebel assaults,[7] and then aided the Syrian Army in retaking Tal Hamr and lifting the siege of Hader.[19] They consequently helped to fend off further attacks against Hader by the Southern Front and allied mujahideen.[20] Throughout July, the Golan Regiment helped to defend several towns and hills in the Golan Heights against various Southern Front-led attacks,[21][22][23] and participated in a major government counter-offensive in the area.[24]

A rebel T-72 shoots at the government positions on Tal Kroum, which were held by the Golan Regiment at the time.

In September 2015, the regiment held reconciliation talks with Free Syrian Army (FSA) units that held Jabatha Al-Khasheb, Beit Jinn, and Taranjah,[17] though in the end the talks failed and fighting was resumed. As result, FSA and al-Nusra Front fighters launched another offensive to capture Hader and the surrounding countryside, with the Golan Regiment once again attempting to hold its positions at the frontline.[25][26] On 2 October, the Islamist Jaish al-Haramoun alliance and several FSA units launched another offensive in Quneitra, first attacking Tall Ahmar, which was defended by the Golan Regiment and the Quneitra Hawks Brigade.[8] After a fierce, two-days long battle, the hill fell into rebel hands and the NDF defenders were forced to withdraw.[27] The Golan Regiment, along with other NDF and army units, launched a counter-attack to recapture Tall Ahmar on 7 October,[28] which was repelled. Opposition troops then also took control of the nearby "UN hill",[29] though NDF forces, including the Golan Regiment, reversed this rebel gain a few hours later.[30] In course of the next weeks, the Golan Regiment helped to recapture all positions taken by rebel forces during the offensive.[16][31]

In late December 2015, the Golan Regiment participated in a government attack on West Al-Samdaniyah, which was captured after hard fighting; soon after its capture, however, the army retreated from the town for unknown reasons, so that it was retaken by rebels.[32]

The regiment and other government units once again held reconciliation talks with local FSA rebels in the following January.[33] Later that month, the 9th Armoured Division's 90th Brigade and the Golan Regiment successfully ambushed an al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham convoy near the Shebaa farms.[34] On 29 January, the Golan Regiment helped to repel renewed rebel attacks against the contested hill of Tal Kroum.[35]

Expanded operations 2016–17

Beginning with February 2016, when the unit sent its fighters north to participate in the first government offensive to retake ISIL-held Al-Tabqa Military Airport,[9] the Golan Regiment became far more active outside of Quneitra Governorate. Though the aforementioned offensive eventually stalled and was discontinued, the Golan Regiment also aided the recapture of Palmyra from ISIL in March.[10] Later in June, its militiamen were once again involved in another attempt by the government to regain Al-Tabqa Military Airport;[11] which ended in a complete defeat as the pro-government forces were routed by ISIL counter-attacks.

Meanwhile, the Golan Regiment continued its defence of the Hader area. On 6 June the Criterion Brigades launched an offensive called "At Your Service Darayya" in order to draw government forces from the Siege of Darayya and Muadamiyat to reinforce the front in Quneitra. The Brigades allegedly seized 2 villages, which was promptly denied by the Golan Regiment.[36] On 28 July, the Israel Defense Forces attacked the Golan Regiment, launching missiles at the convoy of Majid Himoud and two mortar emplacements of the unit at Madinat al-Baath. While Himoud survived, the militia denounced Israel for its "Zionist" attacks.[3][37]

We are good at what we do and the army relies on us to stop the opposition from penetrating the front lines in Quneitra, precisely because some of our groups used to be with the opposition groups. Majid [Himoud] and the others know who they are personally, know how they think and how they fight. This helps our fight against them.

Mohammad Zeidan, Golan Regiment fighter since 2014.[2]

The following September saw a resurgence in the fighting for the Golan Heights, as Jihadist-led rebels launched a large-scale offensive in the area, with the Golan Regiment once again at the forefront in the defense of Hader.[12] Throughout the battle, the Golan Regiment accused Israel of supporting the Islamist rebels,[38] and on 17 September, the unit once again became the target of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike that killed one and wounded 5 of its militiamen. The strike was in retaliation for a stray mortar shell that had hit Israeli territory.[39] On the other side, the pro-opposition Al-Etihad accused the Golan Regiment of having disguised Hezbollah fighters in its ranks.[40] While the rebel offensive was eventually repelled, a later government counter-offensive supported by the Golan Regiment equally yielded no gains.[41] Meanwhile, after the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF)'s branch in Jubata al-Khashab collapsed amid internal discord, the local SRF commander defected to the Golan Regiment.[42]

The unit spearheaded a government attack in November 2016 that secured the northern part of a strategic highway in the Golan Heights.[43] In December, the Golan Regiment sent reinforcements to the Tiyas Military Airbase in an attempt to halt a massive ISIL offensive in the region.[13] On 17 and 26 January 2017, the regiment reportedly helped to repel two rebel attacks in the areas around Hader.[44][45] On 19 March, the Israeli Air Force targeted the Golan Regiment commander Yasser Hussein al-Sayyed[lower-alpha 1] with a drone as he was travelling to Damascus by car. Both he as well as his driver were killed. The attack was seen as Israeli retaliation for the attempt of the Syrian Air Defense Force to shoot down an IAF jet that had bombarded Hezbollah positions near Palmyra.[5] Meanwhile, the unit also helped countering rebel offensives in Jobar and northern Hama,[2] and took part in the operations in the Syrian Desert in course of which the government again retook Palmyra and pushed back ISIL in eastern Homs Governorate.[14]

On 16 June, a suicide bomber struck Majid Himoud as he was meeting with other Golan Regiment fighters in Khan Arnabah; two members of the unit were killed instantly, while Himoud was wounded and brought to a hospital. There he succumbed to his wounds two days later.[4][14] Later that month, the Golan Regiment aided the Syrian Army and other pro-government militias in repelling a major rebel offensive against Madinat al-Baath;[15] in course of the fighting, the unit was once again bombed by the Israeli Air Force.[46] The Golan Regiment helped to repel an Tahrir al-Sham-led attack on Hader in September 2017.[47][48] In August, the Golan Regiment relocated much of its forces from other regions of Syria to the Golan Heights in response to the preparation of another rebel offensive.[49]

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Al-Sayyed's position within the regiment is disputed. He has been described as commander by news agencies,[5] while the unit's leadership insists that he was "a fighter with no particular rank".[2]
  2. When asked about Himoud's claims, the Southern Front denied working with Israel, and said that "[Himoud] is an opportunist and a liar. He is a traitor and a regime agent."[2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Inside Assad's Syria (2015).
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 Nour Samaha (3 April 2017). "How these Syrians went from opposition fighters to pro-regime militiamen". Al-Monitor. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/04/syria-south-opposition-defection-army-israel.html. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Albin Szakola (28 July 2016). "Pro-Assad militia says hit by Israel". NOW.. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/567236-pro-assad-militia-says-hit-by-israel. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Leith Fadel (18 June 2017). "Leader of prominent pro-government force has died in Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/leader-prominent-pro-government-force-died-golan-heights/. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 David Daoud (21 March 2017). "Israel Carries Out Two Strikes Against Assad Regime, Hezbollah Targets in Syria". Long War Journal. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/israel-carries-out-two-strikes-against-assad-regime-hezbollah-targets-in-syria.php. Retrieved 22 March 2017. 
  6. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-beats-back-jihadist-forces-golan-heights-despite-israeli-aggression/
  7. 7.0 7.1 Leith Fadel (18 June 2015). "Militant Offensive in Al-Quneitra Fails to Yield Any Gains". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/militant-offensive-in-al-quneitra-fails-to-yield-any-gains/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Leith Fadel (4 October 2015). "Syrian Army Repels the Islamist Rebels at Tal Al-Ahmar in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-repels-the-islamist-rebels-at-tal-al-ahmar-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Leith Fadel (11 February 2016). "Syrian Army enters Raqqa after liberating the Zakiyah Crossroad, 47 km to Tabaqa: map". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-enters-raqqa-liberating-zakiyah-crossroad-47-km-tabaqa-map/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Leith Fadel (22 March 2016). "More reinforcements pour into Palmyra as the Syrian Army prepares to storm the city". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/reinforcements-pour-palmyra-syrian-army-prepares-storm-city/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Leith Fadel (2 June 2016). "Developing: Syrian Army reaches the Raqqa border". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-advances-raqqa-border/. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Leith Fadel (29 July 2016). "[Video Syrian Army beats back the jihadist rebels in the Golan"]. al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/video-syrian-army-beats-back-jihadist-rebels-golan/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ivan Yakovlev (12 December 2016). "Syrian Army repels first ISIS assault on T-4 Airbase, prepares for a second wave". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-repels-first-isis-assault-t-4-airbase-prepares-second-wave/. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Pro-Assad Militia Commander Killed in Quneitra Suicide Blast". The Syrian Observer. 21 June 2017. http://syrianobserver.com/EN/News/32921. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Leith Fadel (25 June 2017). "Syrian Army beats back jihadist forces in Golan Heights despite Israeli aggression". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-beats-back-jihadist-forces-golan-heights-despite-israeli-aggression/. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  16. 17.0 17.1 Leith Fadel (25 September 2015). "Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Armed Forces Agree to Reconciliation Talks in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/free-syrian-army-and-the-syrian-armed-forces-agree-to-reconciliation-talks-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  17. Aymenn Al-Tamimi (15 November 2015). "Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi: More On The Druze Militias in Southern Syria". Syria Comment. http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/aymenn-jawad-al-tamimi-druze-militias-southern-syria/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  18. Leith Fadel (19 June 2015). "Breaking: Syrian Army Recaptures Tal Hamr in Al-Quneitra; Siege of Hadar Lifted". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-syrian-army-recaptures-tal-hamr-in-al-quneitra-siege-of-hadar-lifted/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  19. Leith Fadel (20 June 2015). "Intense Firefights Erupt in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/intense-firefights-erupt-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  20. Leith Fadel (7 July 2015). "Southern Front Offensives in Al-Quneitra, Dara’a and Al-Sweida has been Forestalled". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/southern-front-offensives-in-al-quneitra-daraa-and-al-sweida-has-been-forestalled/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  21. Leith Fadel (12 July 2015). "Southern Front Conducts Another Large Assault on the Golan Heights and Dara’a City". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/southern-front-conducts-another-large-assault-on-the-golan-heights-and-daraa-city/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  22. Leith Fadel (27 July 2015). "Syrian Army Captures Tal Qaba’a Near the Israeli Bordder". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-captures-tal-qabaa-near-the-israeli-bordder/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  23. "New Al-Quneitra offensive gets off to a fast start". al-Masdar News. 22 July 2015. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/new-al-quneitra-offensive-gets-off-to-a-fast-start/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  24. Leith Fadel (27 September 2015). "Islamist Rebels Rebuff Reconciliation Offer and Launch an Offensive in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamist-rebels-rebuff-reconciliation-offer-and-launch-an-offensive-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  25. Leith Fadel (29 September 2015). "Islamist Rebels Launch a Major Offensive in the Golan With the Help of Israel". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamist-rebels-launch-a-major-offensive-in-the-golan-with-the-help-of-israel/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  26. Leith Fadel (4 October 2015). "Islamist Rebels Declare Control of Tal Al-Ahmar in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamist-rebels-declare-control-of-tal-al-ahmar-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  27. Leith Fadel (7 October 2015). "Syrian Army and Popular Committees Launch Counter-Attack in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-and-popular-committees-launch-counter-attack-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  28. Leith Fadel (10 October 2015). "Islamist Rebels Declare Control Over U.N. Hill in Al-Quneitra; Renewed Offensive at Tal Qaba’a". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamist-rebels-declare-control-over-u-n-hill-in-al-quneitra-renewed-offensive-at-tal-qabaa/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  29. Leith Fadel (11 October 2015). "Syrian Army Reverses Islamist Gains in the Golan: U.N. Hill Recaptured". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-reverses-islamist-gains-in-the-golan-u-n-hill-recaptured/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  30. Leith Fadel (24 October 2015). "Syrian Army Captures the 4th Battalion Base in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-captures-the-4th-battalion-base-in-the-golan-heights/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  31. Leith Fadel (24 October 2015). "Syrian Army withdraws from West Al-Samdaniyah". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-withdraws-from-west-al-samdaniyah/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  32. Leith Fadel (6 January 2016). "Reconciliation talks begin in the Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/reconciliation-talks-begin-in-thr-golan-heights/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  33. Leith Fadel (21 January 2016). "Islamist rebels ambushed on the way to the Shebaa Farms". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamist-rebels-ambushed-on-the-way-to-the-lebanese-shebaa-farms/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  34. Leith Fadel (30 January 2016). "Islamists launch new offensive in southwestern Syria". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamists-launch-new-offensive-in-southwestern-syria/. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  35. Albin Szakola (7 June 2016). "Quneitra rebels aim to relieve siege of Darayya". NOW.. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/567071-quneitra-rebels-aim-to-relieve-siege-of-darayya. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  36. Leith Fadel (29 July 2016). "Israeli Drone Strikes Target the National Defense Forces and the PFLP-GC". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/israeli-drone-strikes-target-the-national-defense-forces-and-the-pflp-gc/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  37. Leith Fadel (14 June 2016). "Israeli Army returns 14 bodies to the jihadist rebels after Golan Heights offensive". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/israeli-army-returns-14-bodies-jihadist-rebels-golan-heights-offensive/. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  38. Leith Fadel (17 September 2016). "Israeli Air Force attacks Syrian Army in the Golan Heights". Al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/israeli-air-force-attacks-syrian-army-golan-heights/. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  39. Albin Szakola (9 September 2016). "Hezbollah "secretly" deploying in Quneitra: report". NOW.. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/567345-hezbollah-secretly-deploying-in-quneitra-report. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  40. Leith Fadel (26 September 2016). "Syrian Army launches surprise offensive in Golan Heights". Al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-launches-surprise-offensive-golan-heights/. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  41. Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (3 July 2017). "Arab Media: Israeli Bombardment Killed, Wounded Targets inside Syria". In Jonathan Spyer. Rubin Center. http://www.rubincenter.org/2017/07/israels-relations-with-the-syrian-rebels-an-assessment/. Retrieved 4 July 2017. 
  42. Leith Fadel (24 November 2016). "Latest battlefield map of the Golan Heights". Al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/latest-battlefield-map-golan-heights/. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  43. "Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Wins Back More Strategic Regions Near Ancient Palmyra". Fars News Agency. 17 January 2017. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951028000502. Retrieved 13 February 2017. 
  44. "Quneitra: Al-Nusra Front's Base Destroyed, Terrorists' Offensive Repulsed". Fars News Agency. 26 January 2017. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000693. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  45. Leith Fadel (26 June 2017). "Arab Media: Israeli Bombardment Killed, Wounded Targets inside Syria". The Jewish Press. http://www.jewishpress.com/news/middle-east/syria/arab-media-israeli-bombardment-killed-wounded-targets-inside-syria/2017/06/26/. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  46. Leith Fadel (8 September 2017). "Jihadists launch new offensive in Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/jihadists-launch-new-offensive-golan-heights/. 
  47. Andrew Illingworth (8 September 2017). "Syrian Army, allies fully reverse Al-Qaeda offensive in Golan Heights". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-allies-fully-reverse-al-qaeda-offensive-golan-heights/. 
  48. Leith Fadel (17 August 2017). "Syrian Army readies its forces in the Golan Heights amid jihadist build-up, Israeli threats". al-Masdar News. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-readies-forces-golan-heights-amid-jihadist-build-israeli-threats/. 

Bibliography

External links

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