Syrian rebels take control of Golan Heights crossing with Israel

After heavy clashes with Assad forces, Syrian rebels, including some linked with al Qaida, captured the post along Syria's de facto border with Israel in the Golan Heights.

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
An Israeli soldier stands next to a factory that was damaged by a rocket in a community in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the border with Syria August 27. Al Qaeda's Syria wing Nusra Front and other Islamist fighters have taken control of a border crossing on the line dividing Syria from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a group monitoring the Syrian conflict said on Wednesday.

Syrian rebels, including fighters from an al Qaida-linked group, seized control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights on Wednesday after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, activists and rebels said.

The capture of the post along Syria's de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic value than strategic, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages that were under siege by government troops.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an array of rebel fighters, including from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, took the crossing after heavy fighting that left at least 20 Syrian soldiers and an unknown number of rebels dead.

It said clashes also raged in the towns of Jaba, Tal Kroum and Rawadi in Quneitra province.

Gen. Ibrahim Jbawi, the spokesman for the Free Syrian Army's southern front, confirmed the rebel gains, as did the Local Coordination Committees activist group.

Jbawi said Syrian forces still control another crossing nearby, typically used to search products entering from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights into Syria — usually, crates of apples.

Kenan Mohammed, a spokesman for the Western-backed Syrian opposition, said rebels aimed to push Assad's troops from all of Quneitra. He also said opposition forces posed no threat to Israel.

"Our aim isn't Israel right now, and we in the FSA haven't targeted Israeli lands," he said, adding that the rebels' focus is on Assad and the extremist Islamic State group. "The matter of Israel — it's not for now, and it's more political."

He denied there had been any collusion with Israel about seizing the border crossing.

The fighting on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier spilled over into Israel, with errant fire wounding an army officer, Israel's military said. It did not immediately comment on the crossing takeover.

From the Israeli side of the de facto border, large clouds of smoke could be seen, as gunfire and explosions sounded in the distance. Israeli soldiers observed the fighting.

Israel has avoided taking sides in the war, but has responded when the violence has spilled across the border. In its response, the military said it targeted two Syrian army positions and "hits were confirmed." It gave no further details.

Israel says it holds the Syrian government responsible for any violence that emanates from its territory.

Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel's annexation of the area has never been recognized internationally.

Associated Press writer Diaa Hadid in Beirut contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.