Sounds of heavy fighting continued Friday afternoon on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights where Bashar Assad's army continued in efforts to dislodge the al-Qaeda affiliated militants who recently captured areas surrounding the Quneitra border crossing with Israel.
Despite a steady flow of reinforcements to the area alongside increased strikes from the Syrian Air Force, soldiers had yet to see success in their counter-offensive and the flag of al-Qaeda continued flying from the tops of buildings along the border.
UN troops at an observation post along the Israel-Syria border. (Photo: EPA)
Security forces from Israel said that developments were being closely watched and that combat from Syria seemed to be periodically increasing before fading away again throughout the day. Though gun battles were said to be taking place near the border, no effects had been felt on the Israeli side of the border as in recent days when mortars and gunfire spilled over into the Israeli lines.
In light of the continuing clashes, Israel decreed that areas near the border which had previously been closed to civilian traffic would remain so at least until Saturday night. The decree includes several roads and highways that pass near the border in the Golan.
|Islamists militants in combat near the Israeli border crossing.|
Syrian media with connections to the Assad regime reported Friday that the Army had successfully retaken three villages, but that the border crossing itself remained under control of Islamic militants. Reports from the war-torn country also suggested that the al-Qaeda militants had received aid and arms from the IDF.
Israel, of course, gave no such help to the rebel militants and IDF troops remained on high alert along the border in light of the capture Thursday of 81 Filipino and 43 Fijian UN troops in the Syrian Golan Heights.
|Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels just meters from captured UN facilities near the Israeli border.|
Though several militant groups seem to have joined together in the assault against the Syrian army, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, also known as the al-Nusra Front, led the offensive and was apparently responsible for the capture of the UN troops.
The group released a video Thursday which showed militants in combat as they took control of the Quneitra border crossing. In the video, fighters could also be heard talking about the strategic value of the crossing as the connection between, "They Syrian territories and the Golan which has been occupied by the Jews for 50 years."
A senior member of the organization could also be heard in the video reading an announcement that they had captured the crossing before saying that the militants hoped that the military gains near Israel would open the road to Damascus and the surrounding areas.