Israeli and ISIS forces exchanged gunfire today in the Golan Heights, leading to an Israeli military airstrike against what they described as an ISIS vehicle, killing four people within. This is the first time the two sides have exchanged fire during the course of ISIS’ expansion across the region.
This could mark a significant shift in the fighting around Israel, as well as in the Israeli government’s priorities in the Syrian Civil War. Though Israel is officially “neutral” within the war, officials have repeatedly publicly stated they don’t want the government to survive, and that they prefer ISIS over Assad.
But until today, the ISIS versus Israel battle was purely rhetoric, with ISIS making a lot of threats but remaining wholly focused on fighting the Shi’ites in Syria. There is considerable concern, however, that with Israel’s repeated airstrikes against the Syrian military and them losing most of their side of the Golan frontier, ISIS and other factions have a straight shot at the Israeli-occupied Golan.
The ISIS affiliate in question, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, is believed to have about 600 fighters, and is centered around southern Syria. There is also considerable movement between different ISIS affiliates as the parent group changes priorities, so this could rapidly become a bigger force with an interest in going after Israel.