Syrian rebels, active in the Syrian Golan Heights, are approaching the Israeli border: While 21 United Nation peacekeepers were released
by the rebels after being held for four days, Syrian President Bashar Assad
's opponents on Saturday evening posted videos showing them firing in the air not far from the border with Israel.
In one of the videos, the rebels are seen traveling in a vehicle within a demilitarized area. One of the rebels slams the Assad regime while conveying a message to Israel.
"We are now in front of the occupied Golan, the blessed land sold by Hafez Assad," he says in the clip. "For 40 years, not a single gunshot has been fired on this land. For 40 years, not a single gunshot has been fired towards Israel."
He goes on to declare that from now on, the rebels will fire on this land, and the men in the car with him fire in the air symbolically. He then says, "We will free the Golan and it will return to the free Syrian people, with the help of Allah."
Rebels next to sign declaring demilitarized zone
In another video, the rebels are seen in a Syrian town near the border, next to a sign pointing to a demilitarized zone. One of the rebels claims they have already taken over 80% of the western villages close to the Israeli border and that "with the help of Allah, they will all be freed."
Syrian rebels have been moving closer to the Israeli border on the southern part of the Golan Heights. In recent days, rebels' brigades near the village of Jamlah reported that they had dealt serious losses to Assad's forces and taken control of further strongholds.
Two days ago, the rebels reported that they had taken over an artillery squadron near the border, killing dozens of the president's loyalists. In the past week, they also said they had taken control of a military barrier and seized different weapons and ammunition.
The rebels are also taking advantage of the absence of some UN monitors. On Friday, two days after 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers were kidnapped by Syrian rebels in Jamlah, situated less than a mile from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, eight other UN monitors from the Philippines abandoned their position
on Friday and crossed the border into Israel.
The soldiers, who belong to a UN force that has patrolled a ceasefire line between Israel and Syria
for nearly four decades, were ordered by their commander to abandon the post for fear rebels may attempt to capture more peacekeepers.
force stationed in the Golan met the peacekeepers at one of the gates along the border fence along with UN personnel who arrived from the Israeli side of the border. The Israeli army stressed that its soldiers did not cross the border to pick up the peacekeepers.