Syrian rebels said to be gaining ground in area near Israel

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels have overrun several towns near Golan Heights, attacking gov't positions.

By REUTERS
March 22, 2013 04:50
1 minute read.
Golan Heights

golan heights 260. (photo credit: Joe Yudin)

Syrian rebels continued to gain ground in the area near the Israeli border on Thursday, according to media reports that spoke of several towns near the Golan Heights falling under their control.

Israel has long been on high – yet quiet – alert on its border with Syria, as the IDF observes the battles taking place. Contingencies the IDF is prepared to deal with include a permanent withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force stationed in the Syria- Israel buffer zone; the peacekeepers have already ceased their patrols.

Other scenarios include coming face-to-face with radical jihadi elements across the frontier.

Groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (“The Salvation Front”), a rebel organization set up by al-Qaida in Iraq, are among the rebels gaining ground.

“We have been attacking government positions as the army has been shelling civilians, and plan to take more towns,” said Abu Essam Taseel, from the media office of the “Martyrs of Yarmouk,” a rebel brigade operating in the area that kidnapped the peacekeepers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force earlier this month.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the conflict in Syria, said rebels had taken several towns near the Golan plateau.

It said that on Wednesday night rebels captured Khan Arnabeh, which sits on the Israeli-Syrian disengagement line and straddles a main road leading into Israeli-held territory.

Rebels also took Mashati al-Khadar and Seritan Lahawan, two villages near the cease-fire line, it said.

Rebel sources say the Syrian army intensified shelling of villages in the area of Saham al-Golan at dawn on Thursday.

They said that rebels in the Kuneitra region, next to the Golan, were stepping up attacks on roadblocks to gain more territory but added that the strategic town of Kuneitra – which was largely destroyed and abandoned during Israeli-Syrian clashes in 1974 – was still in Syrian government hands.

On Wednesday, the IDF provided medical care to four wounded Syrians who approached the border fence with Israel on Wednesday, evacuating two of them to Israeli hospitals for further treatment.

The treatment was provided for humanitarian reasons and was approved by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz.


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