Who is Shuhada al-Yarmouk and Why Did They Start Attacking Israel?

With yesterday’s attack being the first direct confrontation between an ISIS related group and Israel, the question stands who is Shuhada al-Yarmouk and why did they decide to attack the IDF?

Jihad Intel a Middle East Forum Database for tracking Jihad groups says the following:

Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk (Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) was founded in 2012 in southwestern Deraa province (the Yarmouk Valley), bordering the Golan Heights. Once a part of the Western and Gulf-backed ‘Southern Front’ rebel coalition, the group came to blows with Jabhat al-Nusra in December 2014 as the latter accused Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk of secret ties with the Islamic State. Though other Southern Front members denied the claims at the time, the group has since the clashes openly embarked on a program of ‘reform’ in the Yarmouk Valley area it controls, advertising greater affinity with the Islamic State. Besides adopting the Islamic State flag in its emblem, members openly show support for the Islamic State and echo its talking points. The administration of the Yarmouk Valley likewise mimics the Islamic State with an Islamic court , Islamic police and Diwan al-Hisba, though no official pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State has been announced.

Links between Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk and the Islamic State can be traced to the summer of 2014, as certain members visited the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital in Raqqa. In March 2016, Islamic State dispatched a Saudi- Abu Abdullah al-Madani- to take over the group as a new offensive was launched against rebel forces, cooperating with the Islamic Muthanna Movement that controlled some towns to the east. Islamic Muthanna Movement was subsequently forced to retreat into Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk. At the end of May 2016, a new amir was dispatched by the Islamic State and a merger of Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk and Islamic Muthanna Movement was announced under Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed, referring to an early figure in Islamic history who was key in the defeat of the Byzantines in the Levant in the Battle of Yarmouk.

So Shuhada al-Yarmouk was an American invention that decided to change sides in order relive the good old days of Islamic history.  So why attack Israel now?

Let’s face it, ISIS and its many affiliates are in a bit of a bind.  The Shuhada al-Yarmouk organization is in worst shape than others.  It has always been cut off from the rest of the “caliphate” and with Russian backed air strikes in the region, an Iranian military presence, and Hezbollah, its future is now compromised.  It has really only two options to stay relevant with the local populace. Either attack Jordan to its South or give it a go against the “Zionist Entity.” It chose the latter.  Does its failure in its first strike mean it won’t be dangerous down the road?  Not at all.  In fact, to its supporters it is victorious in being true to the Koran, because of its attack on the infidels. Recruitment will rise from this one attack, which means there will be more.

As the border area along the Golan increasingly becomes crowded look for more skirmishes between Syrian troops and ISIS as well as attempts to penetrate the Golan border.  The key anchor in stability in the region are the Druze.  With the animosity between ISIS and the Druze very high, Shuhada al-Yarmouk may decide to strategically alter its plans altogether.


BREAKING NEWS: First Direct Battle Between Israel and ISIS on the Golan

In what is being billed as the first direct clash between Israel and ISIS, the Shuhada al-Yarmouk organization, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, lost a number of fighters after exchanging fire with the IDF. The terror organization fired on IDF soldiers and after an exchange of gunfire, Israel’s airforce destroyed the gunman’s vehicle, killing all of the assailants.

The escalation, although minor in scope presents the first time affiliates of ISIS entered into a direct confrontation with Israel.  Either this was a trial balloon or the collapsing caliphate has decided to open a front against Israel. Given the fact that it is strethced thin due to increasing Russian bombardments and Srian government forces pushing back its fighters, it would be strange that it would want to waste fighters on a much more formidable Israeli arm.

Then again, Israel is a perfect target to distract from ISIS’s weakening position. By attacking Israel it may be able to rally the Sunni street to its side.

One senior officer stated: “We don’t know all the outcomes of the event. There is great probability there are four dead and the heavy machine gun was destroyed. The terrorists are from Shuhada al-Yarmouk, with all the significance that organization’s name carries. The Israeli forces didn’t lie in ambush by chance.”

The Israeli government wasted no time showcasing the incident and the army’s response.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said, “I want to commend our soldiers who pushed back against the attack carried out against us. We are prepared against any enemy that threatens us on our northern border, and do not give ISIS a foothold for their war in Syria.”

Will Shuhada al-Yarmouk attack again? Was this is a test ballon? It is too early to give a clear answer to these questions. However, one thing is for sure, ISIS is not going to sit back and be destroyed nor will it be wished away as if it is the bogey man. Sooner or later as Syria continues to sprial out of control, Israel will have to root out and defeat ISIS with or without intenational help.