The Islamic State terror army is operating sleeper cells in southern Syria near the border with Israel, a spokesman for the opposition’s Free Syrian Army has charged.
The spokesman told The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to communicate with Israeli media, that a significant contingent of the 6,000 Islamic fighters who fled southward toward the borders with Israel and Jordan in July actually owe allegiance to Islamic State, not to the less-extreme Nusra Front, as previously reported.
The Times said it could not confirm the information.
According to the Free Syrian Army, Islamic State operatives approach individuals in the area, offering them food or financial aid.
“They say: ‘Stay at home, no one will know about you. The moment we need you, we’ll call.’” The spokesman said that many locals refused the IS overtures, but that could change given the war-stricken region’s impoverishment.
He offered reassurance, however, that his people would take care of the problem.
“There are sleeper cells in the south, which are hidden. They don’t do anything [military] at all,” the spokesman said of IS. “Many people [in the moderate Syrian opposition] are following them and will strike at them before they organize.”
Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria at Tel Aviv University, said he was unaware of the IS presence in southern Syria, but was not surprised by the disclosure.
“The Islamic State is trying to establish itself all across Syria,” he said. “The organization is going through a process of transformation. Other groups [in Syria] are trying to associate themselves with it and pledge allegiance to it. Some do so out of fear of IS, while others hope to benefit from it in the future.”