Daqduq spent several weeks pretending to be deaf and mute to try to frustrate efforts to interrogate him. He spent the next four years in US custody until he was handed over to Iraq as American forces prepared to withdraw from Iraq.
The US military drew up charges against Daqduq and appeared to be trying to have him extradited to America. But Iraq’s government released him after he was acquitted in an Iraqi criminal court.
Daqduq returned to his native Lebanon and spent several years training Hizbollah’s special forces unit, according to the Israeli military.
Israel says he arrived in Syria in 2018 with orders to form the Golan File unit, which would Hizbollah to fight Israel from southern Syria as well as southern Lebanon.
Israeli intelligence officers said that the unit consists of several dozen Lebanese Hizbollah operatives who have recruited a network of local Syrian fighters.
They said the unit was separate to a larger Hizbollah presence in southern Syria which helped Assad’s forces retake the Golan region from Syrian rebel groups last year. It is allegedly operating in the Syrian Druze town of Hader and several nearby areas.
Daqduq’s mission was deliberately concealed from the Assad regime because Assad is focused on restoring his regime’s stability in southern Syria and does not want to provoke Israel into launching attacks, Israeli intelligence officers said.
Israel has said it is prepared to see the Assad regime resume full control of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights but will not tolerate Hizbollah or Iranian forces in the area.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria in recent years as part of its campaign to stop Iran from entrenching in Syrian territory.
The decision to form the Golan File unit was taken by Hizbollah’s leadership in Lebanon along with Iranian Quds Force commanders, the Israeli officers said. However, the unit is run by Lebanese operatives and there is no sign of Iranians in its leadership, they said.
There was no immediate comment from Hizbollah or the Assad regime to the Israeli allegations.