Baghdad Post, December 25 2017 - Syrian regime forces backed by Iranian-backed militias have pushed deeper into the last rebel-held enclave near a strategic border area with Israel and Lebanon in a new expansion of Tehran’s influence in the war-torn country, according to Reuters.
The regime forces and the Shia forces advanced east and south of the Sunni-rebel held bastion of Beit Jin backed by some of the heaviest aerial bombing and heavy artillery shelling since a major assault began over two months ago to seize the area, rebels said.
The Syrian regime army said it had encircled the village of Mughr al Meer at the foothills of Mount Hermon as troops moved toward Beit Jin amid fierce clashes.
A western intelligence source confirmed rebel reports that Iranian-backed militias including the powerful Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group were playing a major role in the ongoing battles.
“The Iranian backed militias are trying to consolidate their sphere of influence all the way from southwest of Damascus to the Israeli border,” said Suhaib al-Ruhail, an official from the Liwa al Furqan rebel group that operates in the area.
Worried by Iran’s expanding influence in Syria after the defeat of ISIS, Israel has in the last few weeks stepped up its strikes against suspected Iranian targets inside Syria.
Early this month an Israeli strike on a base near Kiswah, south of Damascus was widely believed to be an Iranian military compound, according to a Western intelligence source
Israel has been lobbying both big powers to deny Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Shia militias any permanent bases in Syria.