Assad Said Planning Golan Counterstrike Against Rebels; IDF Bracing” (VIDEO)
Senior Israeli military officials are apprehensively watching their Golan Heights border with Syria, and estimate that Assad forces may seek to regain control of the Quneitra Crossing as soon as tonight from rebel fighters in the area, Israel’s Walla News reported Thursday.
Calling the fast-deteriorating situation “worrying,” a senior military official said, “it’s clear to us that the Syrian Army doesn’t want to deteriorate the situation and will be very careful about avoiding ‘spillover’ of the fighting to the Israeli side.”
The IDF, “is watching what’s happening on the Syrian side and is prepared for any eventuality,” the source stressed.
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and senior officers toured locations along the tense border Thursday, and met with civilians on Kibbutz Ein Zivan, where a man was lightly wounded from a Syrian tank shell fired across the border on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, an IDF medical officer was hit by gunfire from battles on the other side.
The IDF responded with artillery fire to the first attack, hitting two Syrian army positions, according to a spokesman.
Fierce battles between pro-and anti-Syrian government forces close to the border with Israel on Wednesday prompted the army to evacuate residents, tourists and farmers from certain areas close to the northern and southern ends of the frontier, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Wednesday.
According to reports several hundred fighters of the al-Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front overtook the southern Quneitra Crossing from Syrian government forces, and posted black flags dozens of meters from Israeli forces on the other side of the fence.
On Thursday, the United Nations said 43 peacekeepers were “detained” by rebels at the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights amid fighting in the area.
“During a period of increased fighting beginning yesterday between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces within the area of separation in the Golan Heights, 43 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning by an armed group in the vicinity of Quneitra,” the U.N. press office said in a statement.
“From what we know, opposition forces overran the Syrian regime forces on the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, some of those including the Al-Nusra Front, which ultimately leave the crossing in the opposition forces’ hands,” IDF Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP Wednesday.
He said there had been “extensive fighting” on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line since early Wednesday which had resulted in several instances of “errant fire.”
“[Wednesday] morning, it was just one after another after another, I mean, boom, boom, boom,” Josh Hasten, a radio talk show host, said.
An employee at a B&B where they were staying on the kibbutz, told him that outdoor activities for guests were curtailed, apparently, due to “a [mortar] shell that fell in the orchard there.”
“As we were leaving, it was crazy; [security authorities] closed route 98 – they wouldn’t let anyone go north … there were ambulances and firetrucks, and a whole lot of army,” he said.