Syrian rebels, including fighters from an al-Qa’ida-linked group, have seized control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights after heavy clashes with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, activists and rebels said.
The capture of the post along Syria’s de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic than strategic value, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages under siege by government troops.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an array of rebel fighters, including from the al-Qa’ida-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. There were also clashes in the towns of Jaba, Tal Kroum and Rawadi in Quneitra province.
General Ibrahim Jbawi, the spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s southern front, confirmed the rebel gains, as did the Local Coordination Committees network.
General Jbawi said Syrian forces still control another crossing nearby, typically used to search products entering from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights into Syria.
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.
“We in the FSA haven’t targeted Israeli lands,” he said, adding that the rebels’ focus is on Assad and Isis.
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.