Syrian rebels Thursday morning seized control of the Syrian side of Quneitra border crossing, just a few hundred meters from Israeli territory on the Golan Heights. Later reports, however, indicated that the Syrian army had retaken the crossing. The battle for Quneitra raged on throughout the day.
A high-level official told The Tower that the rebels had attacked the border post at first light and had at one point seized complete control over it.
Earlier that morning a mortar shell fell in the UN base nearby, though its source – either the Syrian army or rebels – remains unclear. The IDF reinforced its troop presence in the area, and raised the state of alert along the Israeli-Syrian border.
The IDF called on farmers in the Golan to keep distance from the border and refrain at the moment from working their land.
Seizing the border post would be a symbolic victory for the rebels, as they seek to create territorial contiguity from the Golan Heights to Damascus. Large contingents of Syrian troops are based in the nearby town of Quneitra, and the regime’s counteroffensive was not long in coming.
UN observers are virtually the only people to use Quneitra crossing, established following the ceasefire that ended the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The only civilians to use the crossings are Druze residents of the Golan: mainly university students who study in Syria and brides who marry into Syrian families but – given the absence of Syrian-Israel relations – are unlikely to return to their families. Apples grown by Druze farmers in the Golan are also allowed through the crossing in a special Red Cross–mediated agreement.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, there were reports that a number of people, possibly including a child, were injured when at least a dozen rockets were fired on Baalbek, a Shiite city in the Bekaa Valley that is a Hezbollah bastion. The projectiles were apparently fired by Syrian rebels.
A mobile-phone video purporting to show rebel shelling of Quneitra crossing this morning.
[Photo: جباثا الخشب / Youtube]