Syria attacks militants near Golan Heights border crossing

Airstrikes come the day after Al Qaeda-affiliated militants took control of the area.

Ariel Schalit/AP
Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria's Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clashed with President Bashar Assad’s forces, seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014.

Syrian government warplanes targeted rebels near the country's frontier with Israel in the Golan Heights on Thursday, a day after opposition fighters captured a border crossing point in the region.

The Syrian airstrikes hit several areas near the border in Quneitra province, including the village of Jaba, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Local Coordination Committees activist group also reported the air raids.

The Observatory said heavy clashes were raging between the rebels and Syrian military in Jaba and the surrounding countryside.

White plumes of smoke set off by exploding mortar rounds could be seen on Thursday from the Israeli side of the Golan. The sound of small arms fire could be heard echoing in the background.

An array of Syrian rebel groups, including the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, captured the frontier crossing on Wednesday. A rebel spokesman said the opposition is focused on fighting President Bashar Assad, and poses no threat to Israel.

Wednesday, the Monitor reported this development could help bring pressure on Hamas in Gaza.

The Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria arrived on Israel’s doorstep Wednesday, capturing the Quneitra border crossing to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees a silver lining to the sobering development at the lightly-used border post: More fodder to recruit allies in its struggle against Hamas in the Gaza Strip

Mr. Netanyahu and his spokesmen have been pushing the line that Hamas is indistinguishable from groups like Al Qaeda or the self-styled Islamic State, a Sunni rebel group that now holds a long stretch of territory in Iraq and meaningful pockets in Syria. The Quneitra takeover serves as yet more fodder for Israel to argue that Al Qaeda-style groups are dedicated to ultimately upending all the Arab regimes as well as destroying Israel, and thus strengthens its alliance with those who see Hamas as part fo that threatening trend.

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