Syria has withdrawn at least several thousand of its troops from the Golan Heights western diplomats said, according to  a report in The Guardian on Sunday. The redeployments near the Golan ceasefire line were the most significant in 40 years and the soldiers were moved to fronts closer to the capital Damascus, according to the report.  

"They [the Syrian government] have moved some of their best battalions away from the Golan," said a western diplomatic source The Guardian reported. The source added, "They have replaced some of them with poorer-quality battalions, which have involved reducing manpower. The moves are very significant."

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A result of the redeployments is that rebel groups have moved into the Golan, which have raised Israeli fears that jihadists will use the area as a staging ground for attacks on territory it controls, according to the report. The Guardian also underlined the "ever more vulnerable position" of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), that is stationed on the Golan Heights ceasefire line, as a result of the troop movements. 

Last month, The UN Security Council voiced concern about repeated violations of the ceasefire line between Syria and the Golan Heights and the danger to UN peacekeepers there due to the escalating Syrian civil war.

In January, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel needs to construct a border fence with Syria on the Golan Heights because the Syrian army has moved away from the frontier, and global jihad elements have moved into the area in its place.

The instabilty from Syria has spilled over into the Golan Heights in the form of mortar shells landing in the territory. Last week, a mortar shell fired from Syria fell in the area. 

Herb Keinon and Yaakon Lappin contributed to this report.

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