Tag Archives: Golan Heights

Obama ‘pushed boycott of Jerusalem, biblical territories’

By Dave Robbins

JERUSALEM – A European Union boycott of financial dealings with Jews in the biblical West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem was fully coordinated with the Obama administration, a senior Palestinian negotiator told WND. Read More: Obama ‘pushed boycott of Jerusalem, biblical territories’.

The post Obama ‘pushed boycott of Jerusalem, biblical territories’ appeared first on Endtime Ministries | End Of The Age | Irvin Baxter.

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“Take ‘Withdrawal’ out of the Israeli Lexicon” – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News

By Dave Robbins

As Israeli leaders scramble to react to pressure from both sides of the Atlantic – including a European Union boycott against Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem; and US pressure to make concessions to the Palestinian Authority – one group of rabbis insists that the only effective response lies in a return to traditional […]

The post “Take ‘Withdrawal’ out of the Israeli Lexicon” – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News appeared first on Endtime Ministries | End Of The Age | Irvin Baxter.

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Israel meets ambassadors over EU settlements ban

Israel met the ambassadors of Britain and France, and Germany’s deputy envoy over plans by the EU to ban its 28 members from having any dealings with Jewish settlements, an official said on Friday.

The Jewish state warned the envoys of a serious crisis between it and the European Union over the move, the high-ranking foreign ministry official told AFP.

“The British and French ambassadors and German number two were invited yesterday to the ministry… for discussions on the EU guidelines,” he said.

“We asked the ambassadors to tell their capitals that no Israeli government would accept these conditions, and they could provoke a serious crisis with Israel,” he warned.

The guidelines, published in the EU’s Official Journal Friday morning, forbid EU member states from funding or dealing with entities in territories occupied by the Jewish state in 1967.

Germany and France confirmed the Thursday meetings but the British embassy did not immediately comment.

Christophe Bigot, France’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, said the Israeli foreign ministry’s director, Rafi Barak, had called the meetings.

“The Israelis informed us of their concerns” over the EU plan, he said. “I reminded them that the new guidelines were a continuation of European policy on settlements.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said in a Friday statement that the guidelines simply “reiterates the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967.”

The preamble to the guidelines says that “the EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over… the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem… and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic law”.

The guidelines apply to “grants, prizes and financial instruments,” it adds.

“Only Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders will be considered eligible as final recipients” of this kind of funding.

Of particular concern to officials was a scientific cooperation deal with the EU, “Horizon 2020”, which would generate investments worth hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in Israeli technology companies, Haaretz newspaper quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

More than 80 percent of Israelis are opposed to the new EU guidelines, according to a survey published Friday by pro-government newspaper Israel Hayom.

Settlement building in the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War is considered illegal under international law.

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Sweden: EU Supports International Law – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News

By Dave Robbins

Sweden rejected on Tuesday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s criticism of new European Union guidelines forbidding its member states from cooperating, transferring funds, giving scholarships or research grants to bodies in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Read More: Sweden: EU Supports International Law – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News.

The post Sweden: EU Supports International Law – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News appeared first on Endtime Ministries | End Of The Age | Irvin Baxter.

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Source: Endtime Ministries

Israel: Suspects from Syria enter Israel army post

The Israeli army says Syrian suspects briefly infiltrated an unmanned military post on the border between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

The military said Wednesday that when Israeli troops approached the post, they were fired upon from inside Syria. Israeli troops returned fire.

The army says the incident took place at night and that the suspects have since left the post. It’s the first time suspects from Syria have occupied an Israeli post since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011.

Israel has been wary of Syrian violence spilling across the border into Israeli-controlled territory.

Syrian mortar shells have landed inside Israeli-held areas, but Israel believes them to be errant shots. Israel has occasionally accused Syria of aiming at Israeli targets, and Israeli troops have returned fire.

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EU Redraws Israel Borders to 1949 Lines – Global Agenda – News – Israel National News

By Dave Robbins

The European Union has issued orders forbidding its member states from cooperating, transferring funds, giving scholarships or research grants to bodies in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem , and even the Golan Heights, Haaretz wrote Tuesday. Read More: EU Redraws Israel Borders to 1949 Lines – Global Agenda – News – Israel National News.

The post EU Redraws Israel Borders to 1949 Lines – Global Agenda – News – Israel National News appeared first on Endtime Ministries | End Of The Age | Irvin Baxter.

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Source: Endtime Ministries

Israel will not tolerate external edicts on our borders

By Dave Robbins

After a hasty and urgent meeting at his bureau on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement blasting the European Union over its decision to condition future agreements with Israel on the latter’s recognition of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as occupied territories. Read More: Netanyahu responds to EU: Israel […]

The post Israel will not tolerate external edicts on our borders appeared first on Endtime Ministries | End Of The Age | Irvin Baxter.

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Source: Endtime Ministries

Israeli officials slam new EU settlements directive

Israeli officials on Tuesday slammed an EU directive that will bar all 28 member states from dealings with Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

A high-ranking official, who requested anonymity, described the European Union’s move as a disproportionate “attack” on Israel.

“When it comes to disputed territories, the Europeans prefer to attack a small country like Israel instead of taking on more powerful states, because they’re afraid of retaliation,” he said.

Israel was “only informed of the directive at the last moment,” he added.

The directive, due to be published on Friday and take effect from 2014, forbids EU member states from funding or dealing with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, according to Israeli media.

It requires a clear distinction to be made in all signed agreements between Israel and the territories it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war — the Golan Heights as well as the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

EU spokesman David Kriss told AFP: “These are guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activity in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 for grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU from 2014 onwards.

“It makes a distinction between Israel and the entities in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights,” he said.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin told army radio the Europeans had made a “mistake” and that the directive would undermine any return to peace talks with the Palestinians.

“It’s a very worrying initiative launched at a bad time, because it only reinforces the Palestinians’ refusal to restart negotiations,” he said.

Palestinian leaders say they will only resume direct negotiations with Israel if they are held on the basis of the lines that existed before 1967, and if Israel freezes all settlement activity in the territories.

Israel insists they be held “without preconditions.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in neighbouring Jordan later on Tuesday on his sixth visit to the region in as many months in a bid to bridge the differences between the two sides.

Kriss said the EU wanted Israel to cooperate fully with the directive to ensure its “participation in projects between 2014 and 2020.”

But Elkin told the Haaretz newspaper: “We are not ready to sign on this clause in our agreements with the European Union,” a refusal that could “halt all cooperation in economics… (and) cause severe damage to Israel.”

A leader of the Yesha Council — an umbrella group of municipal councils in Jewish settlements in the West Bank — strongly criticised the EU.

“The one-sided and discriminatory EU directive means Europe has effectively decided to abandon any involvement it had in the Middle East peace process,” Dani Dayan said in a statement.

“By aligning itself with the most extreme Palestinian demands… the EU can no longer be perceived as a neutral or objective,” he added.

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Israel condemns EU directive on settlements

A senior Israeli official is condemning the European Union’s new directive banning EU dealings with settlements as “worrying” and counterproductive to peace talks.

From 2014, Israeli authorities must guarantee that all EU funding and cooperation projects are conducted within Israel’s pre-1967 border and not in east Jerusalem, the West Bank or Golan Heights.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister Zeev Elkin called the decision a “very significant and worrying move,” telling Israel radio on Tuesday that it doesn’t help attempts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

Kerry returns to the region this week for consultations, but is not scheduled to visit Israel or the Palestinian territories.

Israel says the status of lands it captured in the 1967 Mideast war should be resolved through talks.

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Manila sets UN conditions for Golan force to stay

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has set out conditions to the United Nations for more than 300 Filipino peacekeepers to stay in the Golan Heights, including additional weapons for their protection and shorter periods of deployment in the volatile buffer region separating Israel from Syria, officials said Sunday.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in a meeting Friday in New York that the world body will work “with all stakeholders to provide what is needed consistent with the disengagement agreement,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

President Benigno Aquino III’s administration did not immediately say if the U.N. pledge would be enough for it to decide to keep 342 Filipino soldiers in the Golan Heights beyond Aug. 11, when the Philippine contingent was to be replaced by fresh troops. Aquino has sought increased security for the troops, saying they face “an undoable mission” if their security in the increasingly violent buffer zone was not bolstered.

Austria announced recently that it would remove its 377 peacekeepers from the 911-member U.N. peacekeeping force, which includes troops from India, leaving the Philippines as the largest single contributor of armed peacekeepers.

The United Nations and the United States have asked the Philippines to keep its troops in place, warning of “maximum volatility” in the Golan Heights if the Filipinos withdraw after a number of other countries such as Japan and Croatia pulled out their forces amid escalating violence and a series of abductions of peacekeepers.

Del Rosario told Ladsous that the Philippines wanted the U.N. to deploy an agreed peacekeeping force of 1,250 troops and acquire additional protective equipment and weapons for the soldiers by October. Filipino troops should also be allowed to be replaced every six months, shorter than the current deployment, the statement said.

It said that Ladsous understood the Philippines’ position and agreed that more robust defense capabilities were needed for peacekeepers in the Golan Heights.

The U.N. force was established in 1974 to monitor the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and Syria wants the land returned in exchange for peace.

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Israeli artillery retaliates for Syrian fire

Israel’s military says its troops have shelled a position on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights from which they received fire.

It said “artillery and shots” were fired along the border Friday evening, causing no damage and no injuries. Soldiers responded with artillery fire and identified a “direct hit.” It did not provide further details.

Israel has found itself in a difficult position as clashes rage near its frontier with the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau it captured from Syria in the 1967 war.

Sporadic Syrian fire that has hit near Israeli communities, including several mortar shells that have exploded in orchards, spreading panic and sparking fires. Israeli forces have shot back on several occasions. It has not said if it knows whether rebel or pro-government forces in Syria are doing the shooting.

From: http://feeds.foxnews.com/~r/foxnews/world/~3/sDU7_nX_bss/

Decade-old Mideast peace plan re-emerges

A dormant, decade-old Mideast peace plan has suddenly emerged as a possible key to breaking years of deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians.

A top Palestinian official said Sunday that the visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed interest in reviving the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 plan in which the Arab world offered comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a full pullout from all territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Arab officials confirmed the Arab League was set to discuss the matter on Monday.

The initiative was revolutionary when it was introduced by Saudi Arabia‘s then crown prince, King Abdullah, and later endorsed by the 22-member Arab League at a summit in Beirut. However, the plan was overshadowed by fierce Israeli-Palestinian fighting at the time and greeted with skepticism by Israel. The Arab League re-endorsed the plan in 2007, and technically, the offer remains in effect.

Key obstacles remain. Israel has not softened its objections to the plan, and the Palestinians turned down a request from Kerry for changes in it.

In the 1967 war, Israel took control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Sinai and Golan Heights. Israeli returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1982 in the framework of a peace treaty and pulled out of Gaza unilaterally in 2005. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, and peace talks with Syria over the territory have repeatedly failed.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been deadlocked since late 2008, in large part over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians refuse to talk while Israel settles its population on the occupied territories where they want to establish their state. They have demanded that Israel accept the 1967 lines as the basis for a future Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a return to the 1967 lines and calls for talks with no preconditions.

The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation has also endorsed the 2002 Arab peace initiative.

The plan, if adopted, considers the Arab-Israeli conflict “ended,” offers “normal relations” with Israel and calls for providing “security for all the states of the region.”

Israel has rejected a return to the 1967 lines for both security and spiritual reasons. Israeli leaders have long argued that the 1967 frontiers are indefensible. In addition, a return to those boundaries would mean a withdrawal …read more

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Syrian rebels set their sights on strategic south

Syrian rebels captured a military base in the south on Wednesday and set their sights on seizing control of a strategically important region along the border with Jordan that would give them a critical gateway to attempt an attack on the capital, Damascus.

With foreign aid and training of rebels in Jordan ramping up, the opposition fighters have regained momentum in their fight to topple President Bashar Assad.

But while the fall of southern Syria would facilitate the rebel push for Damascus, it might also create dangerous complications, potentially drawing Syria‘s neighbors into the 2-year-old civil war. Besides abutting Jordan, the region includes territory that borders Syria‘s side of the Golan Heights, along a sensitive frontier with Israel.

“This is a very sensitive triangle we are talking about,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The fall of Daraa, if it happens, may usher in strategic changes in the area.”

For the rebels, control of the south is key to their advance toward Damascus. Dozens of fighting brigades have carved up footholds in areas to the east and south of the capital, where they fire off mortar shells on the heavily guarded city.

The significance of their gains in the south was on display Wednesday when the rebels stormed a military base after a five-day siege.

“Damascus will be liberated from here, from Daraa, from the south,” declared an armed fighter, a rifle slung over his shoulder and a kaffiyeh tied around his face. Videos posted online by activists showed him and other unidentified rebels celebrating inside the Syrian army’s 49th battalion in the village of Alma, on the outskirts of Daraa.

“We will march to the presidential palace from here,” said another fighter, amid bursts of Allahu Akbar, or God is great. The videos showed rebels from the Suqour Houran, or Eagles of Houran brigade, driving a Russian-made armored personnel carrier inside the base. “These missiles are now under our control,” said a fighter, standing before a missile loaded on a truck.

Another video, posted by the Fajr al-Islam brigade, showed the rebels walking around the base as the heavy thud of incoming artillery rounds fired by nearby regime forces was heard in the background. A destroyed rocket, army trucks and radars were seen on the ground.

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Syrian forces pound opposition strongholds in Damascus

Syrian warplanes and artillery pounded opposition strongholds in Damascus and its suburbs Tuesday, as rebels in the northern city of Aleppo launched an operation to try to free hundreds of political detainees from the city’s central prison, activists said.

The fighting has escalated across Syria in recent weeks, particularly in Aleppo and Damascus, the country’s largest cities, as the rebels and President Bashar Assad‘s regime try to gain the upper hand in the 2-year-old conflict.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 6,000 people were killed nationwide in March alone, making it the deadliest month since the uprising began.

Fighting has also intensified in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, across from Jordan and the frontier with Israel.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military said a mortar shell landed on its side of the frontier in the Golan Heights area, but it was not clear if the fire was intentional. The incident came after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visited the region Tuesday and warned that Israel would respond to any attack from Syria.

The escalation in the southern Quneitra region along the cease-fire line separating Syria from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights accented concerns that Islamic extremists among the rebel forces could take over the front line opposite Israeli troops.

Damascus has become a key battleground in the civil war. From their strongholds in the suburbs, rebel fighters are trying to slowly push their way into the heart of the capital. Assad has deployed his most loyal and best equipped troops there, trying to insulate it from the violence.

The Observatory said government forces on Tuesday shelled the northern Damascus neighborhoods of Jobar, Barzeh and Qaboun. It also reported an air raid on the suburb of Mleiha.

Maath al-Shami, an activist based in the suburb of eastern Ghouta, said there were several airstrikes in the area, which includes Mleiha. “Fighting is taking place on all fronts,” he said, referring to clashes east of Damascus.

“Drones fly over eastern Ghouta then warplanes come and bomb the area,” al-Shami said, using his activist name because he feared government retribution.

State-run TV said rebels fired a mortar shell on the Damascus suburb of Muqailabiyeh, killing four people, including two children. It claimed troops killed scores of gunmen throughout the country.

The Observatory also reported that five people were killed, including a woman and an Iraqi national, when a barrage of mortar shells exploded in an area of the suburb of Jaramana, just few kilometers (miles) southeast of Damascus. The town is overwhelmingly pro-regime.

In Aleppo, rebels launched an attack dubbed “Freeing the Prisoners” that aims to eventually free detainees held in the city’s central prison, the Aleppo Media Center activist group reported.

Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed said the operation is a three-pronged attack targeting at the Kindi Hospital, Ghondol square and the central prison. He said the hospital has been turned into a military compound recently.

“The aim of the offensive is to strengthen the siege on the central prison and demand the release of political prisoners,” Saeed said via Skype, adding that the goal …read more
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Israel sends more medics to border with Syria

Israel‘s military says it’s beefing up medical teams along the border with Syria following several cases of wounded Syrians crossing the frontier to seek medical assistance.

A military official said on Thursday there have been “numerous incidents” in recent months in which Syrians wounded in the fighting in their country arrived at the frontier for first aid from Israeli medics.

Eleven of them were taken and treated at Israeli hospitals, including one who died from his wounds on Wednesday. Others returned home after their conditions have improved.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity under military protocol. He says the military’s focus in the Israeli-held Golan Heights is still on security and defense but that Israel sent extra medical teams to the area realizing more wounded could soon arrive.

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UN: Syria, rebels must ensure UN safety in Golan

The U.N. Security Council called on the Syrian government and rebel fighters Wednesday to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of the U.N. peacekeeping force that has monitored a cease-fire line between Israel and Syria for nearly four decades.

Council members underscored the increased risk the conflict poses to U.N. personnel, highlighted by the recent hostage-taking of 21 peacekeepers by armed opposition elements. There has also been firing directed at U.N. personnel and facilities, and the carjacking of U.N. vehicles.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters after briefing the council Tuesday that in response to these incidents the U.N. force has had to reduce its “footprint” on the Golan Heights, cutting back patrols and adopting a “much more static” role. In addition, the U.N. has increased protection for the force, bringing in more armored cars and personal equipment, he said.

The Security Council welcomed the provision of additional security measures for the peacekeepers and reiterated the need to continue enhancing their safety in response to new threats, including by temporarily allowing their arrival and departure through an alternate route.

The U.N. monitoring mission, known as UNDOF, was set up in 1974, seven years after Israel captured the Golan Heights and a year after it managed to push back Syrian troops trying to recapture the territory in another regional war.

For nearly four decades, the U.N. monitors helped enforce a stable truce between Israel and Syria but in recent months the conflict has spilled into the Golan Heights. Syrian mortars overshooting their target have repeatedly hit the Israeli-controlled Golan and Israeli warplanes struck inside Syria in January.

The council expressed “grave concern” at the presence of the Syrian army and opposition fighters in the area of separation between Israel and Syria, at violations of the disengagement agreement. It expressed “deep concern” at the risk that all military activities in the area of separation pose to the long-held ceasefire and the local population.

Council members called on all parties “to respect UNDOF‘s freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel,” while stressing that the primary responsibility for safety and security on the Syrian side rests with the Syrian government.

Ladsous said that two years after the Syrian conflict began, “one must more than ever call for the respect of the neutrality, the safety and the security of U.N. personnel, and this applies to …read more
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Syrian opposition plunges into disarray

Syria‘s opposition plunged into disarray Sunday as its president quit and its military chief refused to recognize the newly elected prime minister of an interim government for rebel-held areas.

The moves reflected deep splits in the body the U.S. and its allies hope will emerge as the united face of the opposition and advance the fight to topple President Bashar Assad‘s regime.

The missteps of the opposition’s mostly exile political leadership drew little notice inside Syria, where rebel fighters dismissed it as ineffective and pushed ahead with their offensive to gain ground near the country’s southern border with Jordan. Nearby, the Israeli military in the Golan Heights responded to fire by shooting back at targets inside Syria.

The first blow to the opposition Syrian National Coalition was the surprise resignation of its president, who said he was quitting in frustration over what he called lack of international support and constraints imposed by the body itself.

Mouaz al-Khatib, who rose to prominence as a preacher in Damascus’ most famous mosque, said in a statement posted on his Facebook page that he was making good on an earlier vow to quit if undefined “red lines” were crossed.

“I am keeping my promise today and announcing my resignation from the National Coalition so that I can work with freedom that is not available inside the official institutions,” he said.

He also blamed world powers for not offering Syria‘s rebels the support they demand and complained that “international and regional parties” tried to push the Coalition toward negotiations with the Assad regime — something most members refuse.

“All that has happened to the Syrian people — from destruction of infrastructure, to the arrest of tens of thousands, to the displacement of hundreds of thousands, to other tragedies — is not enough for an international decision to allow the Syrian people to defend themselves,” the statement said.

Despite electing a new, U.S.-educated prime minister last week to head a planned interim government, the Coalition has failed to make much of a mark inside Syria, where hundreds of independent rebel brigades are fighting a civil war against Assad’s forces.

Reflecting the growing dissension over that move, the head of the Coalition’s military branch, Gen. Salim Idris, said his group refused to recognize the new …read more
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Rebels seize air defense base in southern Syria

Syrian rebels on Saturday seized a major air defense base in a strategic region in the south near the Jordanian border, the latest battlefield triumph for fighters seeking to topple President Bashar Assad, activists said.

Fighters with a rebel group active in the south stormed and seized control of the base used by the 38th Division after a 16-day siege, according to a statement posted on websites of the group known as the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade. The base near the village of Saida is situated along the international highway linking the Syrian capital, Damascus, with Jordan to the south.

Fighting in Syria‘s southern provinces bordering Jordan and Israel has increased sharply in the past few days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of people, mostly opposition fighters, were killed in heavy clashes this week in the Quneitra region along the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights.

The Britain-based group, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said it had documented the deaths of 35 opposition fighters and that contact had been lost with more than 20 others believed to have died in the fighting. Dozens of others were wounded, the group said.

The fighting in the area intensified midweek after rebels seized a village and parts of other villages, closing in on the strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed.

If the rebels take over the Quneitra region, it will bring radical Islamic militants to a front line with Israeli troops. The rebel force comprises dozens of groups, including the powerful Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, which the Obama administration labels a terrorist organization.

The Observatory said al-Nusra was among fighters who seized the air base in Daraa province. Both the rebels and the observatory reported that the opposition fighters killed the base commander.

In Damascus, supporters of Assad gathered in downtown amid tight security for the funeral of one of Syria‘s best-known clerics who was assassinated in a brazen mosque bombing earlier this week.

Security forces sealed off all roads leading to the eighth century Omayyad Mosque where the funeral for Sheik Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti, an 84-year-old pro-government cleric, was held.

Al-Buti, his grandson and 48 others were killed Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a mosque where al-Buti was giving a religious lesson.

His assassination was a blow to Assad, who vowed Friday to avenge his death, saying he would “purge” the country of the militants behind the attack in the heart of the capital.

Both Assad and the rebels seeking his ouster have blamed each other for the bombing at the mosque.

Al-Buti, the most prominent religious figure killed so far in the 2-year-old conflict, had supported the regime since the early days of Assad’s father and predecessor, the late President Hafez Assad, providing legitimacy to their rule.

Mourners carried al-Buti and his grandson’s coffins, draped in white cloth, on their shoulders amid shouts of “God is Great.”

Al-Buti was imam of the Omayyad Mosque, a landmark in Damascus. Church bells tolled and mosque …read more
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