Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Secretly Sends Weapons, Dozens Of Operatives To Syria; Some Near The Border With Israel

November 5, 2023

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

During the first week of November 2023, Syrian opposition-affiliated media sources released a series of reports which stated that during that period the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) had secretly moved weapons and dozens of operatives from Iraq to Syria. Some of them – including experts in the operation of drones – were reportedly sent to the south of the country, near the border with Israel. These reports followed a statement issued by the PMU itself on November 2, 2023, which announced that it was placing its forces on maximum alert.[1]

The same sources also reported on military training exercises carried out by the Sayyidah Zaynab Regiment of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Al-Mayadin area in the east of the country, as well as on a recruitment campaign opened by the Iran-backed militias in the same area. The preceding reports were published against a backdrop of an escalation in attacks by Shi’ite militias on U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq in late October and early November, and concern about an expansion to the Syrian arena, of the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.[2]

The following information appeared in the reports:

On November 3, 2023, the Syrian opposition-affiliated website Eye of Euphrates reported that during the same day the PMU had moved more than 100 of its operatives from Iraq into Syria, in coordination with the Iran-backed militias in Syria. They reportedly entered the country through the Al-Sikak and Al-Bukamal border crossings, escorted by vehicles that belong to the Iranian “security bureau” in the city of Al-Bukamal. The report further stated that the operatives did not enter the city of Al-Bukamal, but travelled through the desert, along the border to "Haql Al-Ward" and from there they continued to the cities of Al-Mayadin and Palmyra in the center of the country. The website noted that the forces’ final destination was unclear, but it was believed that they were moving toward the border area with Israel in the south of the country.[3]

The above photograph appeared with the report on the Eye of Euphrates website (Source:, November 3, 2023)


According to Eye of Euphrates, also on November 3, the IRGC’s Sayyidah Zaynab Regiment held military training exercises in the desert area of Al-Mayadin, east of Deir Al-Zour. These exercises included target practice, combat in built-up areas, and assaults, and were overseen by Hajj Ja’far, an Iranian adviser from the IRGC.

The website added that alongside the training exercises, the Iran-backed militias launched a recruitment campaign in the city of Al-Mayadin. It also noted that several months earlier these militias held similar exercises on the outskirts of the city of Al-Bukamal, east of Deir Al-Zour, with the participation of Hizbullah and the Iran-backed Fatemiyoun Brigade militia.[4]

The above photograph appeared with the report on the Eye of Euphrates website (Source:, November 3, 2023)


On November 4, 2023, Eye of Euphrates reported that five buses that are normally used to bring Shi’ite pilgrims to Shi’ite holy sites in Syria, had recently entered Syria from Iraq, travelling through the Al-Bukamal-Al-Qa’em border crossing, and carrying PMU operatives.

The report further stated that a security escort was provided for the buses when they entered Syria by an Iranian “security bureau” and that the Iran-backed militias had prevented the civilian companies – which routinely escort busloads of pilgrims that enter Syria – from accompanying the convoy. The website states that the reason for this was to keep secret the final destination of the buses, the identity of the passengers, and the information about the weapons that were onboard. Several of the buses were said to have travelled to the city of Al-Mayadin, while the rest were said to have continued to the Quneitra area in the south of the country. A photograph of one of the buses appeared with the report (see below).[5]

On November 5, 2023, on its Telegram channel, the Syrian opposition-affiliated group the Ja’far Al-Tayyar Brigades posted that the IRGC and the Iraqi PMU had sent some of its operatives, who were experts at operating drones, from Deir Al-Zour to southern Syria.[6]






[3], November 3, 2023.

[4], November 3, 2023.

[5], November 4, 2023.

The full text of this post is available to subscribers.

Please login or register to request subscription information from MEMRI


The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

Read More

Help Fight Extremism - Support MEMRI

MEMRI is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax-deductible and kept strictly confidential.