Middle East

Friday 1 August 2014

Syrian war has spread to our border, Israel warns

Phoebe Greenwood The Golan Heights

Published 14/11/2012|05:00

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ISRAEL has warned that Syria's civil war had spread to its border after rebel fighters seized territory in the demilitarised zone north of the Golan Heights.

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Officials said at least 200 rebel soldiers had taken over Beerajam and Bariqa, two isolated villages in the buffer zone established between the two countries following the Yom Kippur war in 1973.

"The rebels are employing a clear tactic of drawing the regime to fight in these demilitarised areas because of the limitations on the Syrian armed forces," an Israeli military intelligence source said last night .

"Rebels have seized control of the area north of Quenetra and the area to its south. If they are brave they will try to make a swift move to cut off Quenetra city and cut off the road to Damascus. We cannot rule that out.''

A 1974 armistice prohibits the Syrian government from engaging in military activity in a buffer zone that runs along the Israeli border, with a width just under six miles.

Israel has not formally taken sides in the Syrian conflict and there are fears that a more hostile Islamist government may succeed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Military officials said the rebels in control of Quneitra were members of a radical Salafist faction calling itself "Eagles of the Golan". Made up largely of foreign fighters, it boasts that once it has ousted Assad it will focus on Israel.

The rebel advance was reported as opposition leaders sought recognition from Arab League and European states at a summit in Cairo that they said would allow them to acquire weapons overseas.

William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, hailed a deal to restructure the opposition, bringing in a new leader and establishing a broader coalition of parties.

"It is a very important milestone and a very big step towards (recognition)," he said. adding: " We want to see in practice that the Syrian opposition or the coalition now being assembled is as inclusive as possible of opposition groups and all communities in Syria."

France yesterday became the first European state to recognise Syria's new National Coalition as "the legitimate repres- entative of the Syrian people".

Britain is to host a conference of opposition allies in London on Friday.

One of the key issues facing the world is the increasing humanitarian crisis resulting from the fighting. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent said more than 2.5 million people had lost their homes since the crisis began in 2011. The UN has said it expects to provide blankets, clothing and cooking kits to some 500,000 people in Syria by the end of the year.

But the war is making distribution increasingly difficult. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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