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Photo: EPA

Syrian troops widen offensive in border areas

Pro-Assad forces battle rebels near Lebanese border; gunfire hits near Golan IDF unit, which fires back with Tamuz missile; government forces launch second offensive near Jordanian border

An IDF unit in the northern Golan Heights was subject to shooting from Syria Friday. Blasts sounded in the area, but no injuries or damage were reported.

 

Though initial reports determined that the incident was the result of errant fire from Syria, it was later reported that the IDF fired back at the direction of the post from which the gunfire was detected.

 

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According to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, the IDF responded with firing a Tamuz missile and a hit was detected. It has yet to be established whether there were any injuries in the Syrian post.

 

Helicopters were circling the area to monitor the region, and the IDF informed UN forces in the region.

 

Over the past six months several shooting incidents from Syria across the border with Israel occurred. Though most incidents were perceived accidental, IDF assessments determined that some were intentional and fired back.

 

Lebanese, Jordanian borders

Syrian troops backed by warplanes battled rebels for control of strategic hilltop villages near the Lebanese border on Friday, as government troops step up counterattacks against opposition forces threatening regime supply lines on the country's frontiers.

 

Bomb blasts and shots fired into the air to mourn a fallen Syrian government soldier could be heard on the Lebanese side of the border as fighting raged around Qusair, a contested central Syrian town near a key highway between Damascus and the coast.

 

The battles there come as government forces launched a second offensive against rebel forces in the province of Daraa on the Jordanian border, where the opposition has been making steady advances in recent weeks.

 

While President Bashar Assad 's forces are stretched thin and much of the country has been allowed to slip into the hands of the rebels, the government is still fighting hard to keep control of airports, seaports, and roads linking them to the capital Damascus that are seen as essential to its survival.

 

Also on Friday, activists said rebels clashed with troops in the northeastern border city of Qamishli, two kilometers (miles) away from the border with Turkey. Fighting is rare in the predominantly Kurdish and Christian city, where rebels usually maintain a truce with the government.

 

It was not clear what prompted the clashes, which according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights included members of the Islamic extremist Jabhat al-Nusra group.

 

Syria's rebels have gained momentum and made significant gains in the past weeks, largely due to an influx of arms. Arab officials and Western military experts say Mideast powers opposed to Assad have stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels, with Jordan opening up as a new route.

While much of the recent fighting has focused in Daraa, rebels have also made advances in Homs province near Lebanon. The province saw some of the heaviest fighting during the first year of the Syrian conflict, which erupted in March 2011, and intermittent episodes of violence since.

 

On Friday, sporadic explosions inside Syria echoed across the Lebanese side of the border and an Associated Press reporter said Syrian warplanes carried out at least one airstrike inside Syrian territory near the town of Qusair.

 

Six people in the area, including two children, were killed when a shell struck their home, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Four rebel fighters were also killed.

 

Syrian warplanes carried out airstrikes elsewhere around the country on Friday, hitting multiple targets in Daraa, in the northern province of Raqqa whose province capital became the first to fall to rebel hands in March, and in the northern city of Aleppo, parts of which have been under rebel control since last summer.

 

In the northeastern city of Qamishli, rebels including the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra clashed with Syrian soldiers. Activists said the fighting appeared to break an undeclared truce that had spared the region the violence that has wracked other cities during the two-year-old civil war.

 

The government has informally handed over security to local Kurdish militias, who are mostly neutral in the civil war, on the understanding that rebels would not launch attacks there.

 

It was not clear what prompted the fighting at the entrance to Qamishli and near its airport. The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides.

 

AP contributed to this report

 

 

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פרסום ראשון: 04.12.13, 20:16
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