Syrian Islamist rebels have conquered more territory in the Quneitra area, moving their positions much closer to the border with Israel than ever before.
According to the latest reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the NGO confirmed that the latest advances were made after a fierce battle Saturday between rebels and the Syrian army in which 26 troops and 17 rebels were killed.
“Rebels have since taken control of hills overlooking the border post, as well as several villages nearby, after battles that killed a large number of troops on both sides,” director Rami Abdul-Rahman said on Sunday.
On Saturday, “the regime tried to take back the village of Msahara, but failed.” Over the course of the day, rebels took control of a strategic swath of new hilltops.
Since the end of August, fighting has raged in the Quneitra province when rebels associated with al-Qaeda’s al-Nursa Front took control of the border post shared with Israel in the Golan Heights. The IDF estimates that al-Nursa fighters make up a third of the 2,000 rebels currently fighting in Quneitra.
During this time, fighting between the rebels and the army has spilled into Israel, with rocket, mortar and weapons fire landing in Israel. The IDF shut down the northern border and declared the area a closed military zone after several Israelis were injured and died as a result of stray weapons fire.
The Observatory estimates that some 70 Syrian loyalists and dozens of rebels have died in battle over Quneitra.
Elsewhere in Syria, army warplanes carried out airstrikes in areas under ISIS control in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor , the northern province of Raqa and rebel positions east of Damascus.
In central Damascus, several shells fired from nearby rebel positions landed in Abbasiyeen Square and other areas. The shelling comes three weeks into a major battle over in the eastern Damascus district of Jobar which currently lies in rebel control.
Since the start of the civil war in Syria in March 2011, more than 191,000 people have been killed.