The Golan Regiment (Arabic: فوج الجولان, Fouj al-Joulan) is a militia based in Khan Arnabah that is part of the National Defence Forces (NDF). Though primarily active in the Golan Heights, the unit has been deployed in various warzones of western Syria, fighting against many different Syrian opposition forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Golan Regiment is notable insofar as it was the first government unit during the Syrian Civil War that was founded by Free Syrian Army (FSA) defectors.
The beginnings of the Golan Regiment trace back to 2011, when its later leader Majid Himoud volunteered for the Syrian Army. According to Himoud, the officers in his division abused him and other soldiers, whereupon they decided to defect. In December 2011, they formed a Free Syrian Army unit under Himoud's leadership, the al-Mutasim Battalion, and began to fight against the government near the border to Israel. Allied with other local rebel groups, Himoud's men fought at Jabata, Khan Arnabah, Madinat al-Baath, Beer Ajam, and Breika, and made good progress against the government. As time went on, however, Himoud became increasingly dissatisfied with his allies; he later claimed that some groups such as Alwiya al-Furqan "wouldn’t even fight, they would come to the battlefield after the clashes had ended, take pictures and videos next to destroyed buildings and tanks, and then send them back to their financiers in Jordan or the Gulf states in order to collect their paychecks". Others he accused of closely working with Israel, which he considered a "red line" Syrians should not cross.[a]
These factors led Himoud and many of his men reconsider their role as rebels, and in late 2013 he eventually contacted the mayor of Khan Arnabah, who was his relative and the NDF commander whose troops he was primarily fighting. The two agreed to a local ceasefire, and after eight months of negotiations, Himoud and dozens of his fighters handed themselves over to the government. They received an amnesty by president Bashar al-Assad, and formed the "Golan Regiment" as National Defence Forces unit/Popular Committee, centered in Khan Arnabah. The al-Mutasim Battalion members who disagreed with Himoud's decision and refused to defect instead joined other rebel groups. Since its foundation, the Golan Regiment has grown by recruiting government loyalists into its ranks, for example from Hader, a mostly Druze town that is generally considered to be staunchly pro-Assad.
In course of the Quneitra offensive in June 2015, the Golan Regiment and the Quneitra Hawks Brigade first held two strategic significant hills against numerous rebel assaults, and then aided the Syrian Army in retaking Tal Hamr and lifting the siege of Hader. They consequently helped to fend off further attacks against Hader by the Southern Front and allied mujahideen. Throughout July, the Golan Regiment helped to defend several towns and hills in the Golan Heights against various Southern Front-led attacks, and participated in a major government counter-offensive in the area.
In September 2015, the regiment held reconciliation talks with Free Syrian Army (FSA) units that held Jabatha Al-Khasheb, Beit Jinn, and Taranjah, though in the end the talks failed and fighting was resumed. As result, FSA and al-Nusra Front fighters launched another offensive to capture Hader and the surrounding countryside, with the Golan Regiment once again attempting to hold its positions at the frontline.
On 2 October, the Islamist Jaish al-Haramoun alliance and several FSA units launched another offensive in Quneitra, first attacking Tall Ahmar, which was defended by the Golan Regiment and the Quneitra Hawks Brigade. After a fierce, two-days long battle, the hill fell into rebel hands and the NDF defenders were forced to withdraw. The Golan Regiment, along with other NDF and army units, launched a counter-attack to recapture Tall Ahmar on 7 October, which was repelled. Opposition troops then also took control of the nearby "UN hill", though NDF forces, including the Golan Regiment, reversed this rebel gain a few hours later. In course of the next weeks, the Golan Regiment helped to recapture all positions taken by rebel forces during the offensive.