Syrian army retakes Golan crossing

2013-06-06 21:34
Soldiers inspect the crater caused by a rocket fired from Syria that hit Lebanon's eastern Bekaa region. (AFP)

Soldiers inspect the crater caused by a rocket fired from Syria that hit Lebanon's eastern Bekaa region. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Golan Heights - Syrian rebels on Thursday briefly seized the only crossing along the Israel-Syria ceasefire line on the Golan, before regime forces recaptured it using tanks, an AFP correspondent and Israeli sources said.

The fighting took place at the Quneitra crossing and the nearby village of the same in the demilitarised zone between the Syrian part of the strategic plateau and the Israeli-occupied sector.

The clashes were very close to the headquarters of a UN peacekeeping force, prompting Austria to announce it was withdrawing its troops from the mission.

"The Syrian army has recovered control of the crossing," an Israeli security source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An AFP correspondent near the crossing also confirmed that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had retaken Quneitra, saying he could see regime tanks moving inside the area.

Quneitra is the only crossing point between Syria and the Israeli side of the Golan Heights which the Jewish state seized during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

The Israeli military earlier confirmed that the crossing and the nearby town of the same name had fallen into rebel hands.

"We can confirm that opposition forces have overrun the town of Quneitra and the border post," said Captain Arye Shalicar.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors Syria's two-year conflict, had also confirmed the takeover.

Following the clashes, in which two UN peacekeepers were slightly injured, Austria announced it was withdrawing its 380 troops from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) which has been monitoring the ceasefire line since 1974.

"The Austrian army's participation in the UNDOF mission can no longer be maintained for military reasons," an official statement said, indicating the threat to its soldiers had "reached an unacceptable level."

The pullout will have a significant impact on the size of the UN peacekeeping force, whose numbers dropped to around 900 in March after Croatia became the latest country to withdraw its soldiers, following similar moves by Canada and Japan.

UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer told AFP that talks were underway with other countries about sending troops to the Golan force.

Israel has long feared that the violence could force UNDOF to completely pull out, leaving the ceasefire zone open to infiltration by hardline militants.

"We appreciate the contribution and commitment of the Austrian forces to keeping the peace in the Middle East over the years, however we regret this decision, and express hope that it will not lead to an additional escalation in the area," the foreign ministry said.

An Israeli security source described the developments on the strategic plateau as "very worrying."

The army spokesman, meanwhile, said they were watching the situation "very closely."

"We have to be ready for any development," Shalicar told AFP.

Thursday's flareup prompted Israel to reinforce its military presence on the plateau, Israel's public radio said.

Although the army refused to confirm the report, AFP correspondents reported seeing tanks on flatbed trucks in the Quneitra area.

And Israel also lodged a formal complaint with UNDOF over the entry of regime tanks into the demilitarised zone as they moved to retake Quneitra.

"A formal complaint was conveyed by the Israeli army to UNDOF regarding the entrance of tanks to the non-military zone near Quneitra," a spokeswoman said.

Also on Thursday, the army said three mortar rounds struck the central Golan Heights, causing no damage or injuries.

And during the morning, two badly wounded Syrians were let in through Quneitra and taken to Ziv hospital in the Galilee town of Safed.

It was not clear whether they were rebels, government troops or civilians, but Ziv hospital said that a "live hand grenade" had been found on one of them, sparking a brief security scare.

"The grenade was found as doctors treated a seriously wounded and unconscious person," a hospital statement said.

"When they began removing his clothes they found the live grenade in his pocket."

The area of the trauma room and the operating theatre were both evacuated but the grenade was quickly defused by bomb disposal experts, it said.

Syria remains formally at war with Israel and Quneitra crossing is used almost exclusively by Druze residents from the Israeli-occupied side who are allowed to cross over to study, work or get married.

Israel controls some 1 200 square kilometres of the strategic plateau, while around 510 square kilometres remain in Syrian hands.

Read more on:    syria conflict
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Any chance to explore the distant shores of things yet to be found will fascinate you. The challenge is dealing with the issues...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.