Syrian Baath Party official 'kidnapped by Israel' near occupied Golan Heights

Syrian Baath Party official 'kidnapped by Israel' near occupied Golan Heights
According to multiple sources, Mutaa al-Sarhan, a senior official in Syria's ruling Baath Party, was abducted from his home by Israeli forces.
2 min read
24 February, 2024
The Syrian border with Israel along the occupied Golan Heights is officially a ceasefire zone [Getty]

A senior figure in Syria’s ruling Baath Party was allegedly kidnapped by Israel on Wednesday morning after leaving his home in the village of Al-Rafeed in the Quneitra province, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Thursday.

Mutaa al-Sarhan was allegedly abducted near his home close to the occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday. The SOHR said that residents of the area claimed Israeli forces crossed the border to take him.

Though Sarhan’s kidnapping has not been confirmed, the Israeli military did say on Wednesday that it had arrested a suspect who crossed the border from Syria into Israeli territory. The military statement also claimed that the suspect didn't cross the border fence and was taken for further questioning by Israeli security forces.

While no details can be verified, the SOHR claimed that locals speculated that Sarhan might have been kidnapped for Israel for cooperating with Hezbollah –  or that he may actually work for Israel.

The London-based monitor added that Syrian security forces are prevented from approaching the border, as it is considered a ceasefire zone between Israel and the Assad regime.

Other local news sources associated with the Syrian opposition also reported on the disappearance of a senior figure from the Baath party, without mentioning Sarhan. Such reports claim that an “Israeli intelligence unit” kidnapped him from his home during the morning hours, according to Ynet.

The report comes a day after a deadly Israeli strike on a residential building in the Kafr Sousa neighbourhood in Damascus. The neighbourhood is a high-security area of the Syrian capital, housing senior security officials, security branches, intelligence headquarters and an Iranian cultural centre.

Two people are reported to have been killed in the attack.

Live Story

The Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, have been a flashpoint of hostility, especially with the increased presence of Iranian or Iranian-aligned forces in the area due to the Syrian civil war.

Since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes on its northern neighbour, mainly targeting Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah militants as well as Assad regime positions.

The strikes have increased since Israel began its unprecedented assault on Gaza on 7 October.