Syrian government targets rebels near Israel-occupied Golan

Syrian government targets rebels near Israel-occupied Golan

Cheryl Sanders
July 17, 2018

The war monitor and rebels said on Sunday that they believe the jets that bombed Quneitra were Russian, adding it was the first such aerial strike in a year.

The Syrian troops and allied forces have been advancing in their battles against the militants the south for weeks.

Syrian government forces have launched a brutal bombardment of the region around Quneitra in an effort to force the surrender of rebel groups that still control territory in the region.

"Bombardments have also hit areas in [neighbouring] Deraa province".

Israel signaled it would not impede the Syrian army offensive in Quenitra as long as it steered away from the demilitarized zone, even as it struck Syrian army posts near the frontier and elsewhere in Syria where it suspects Iranian backed forces are stationed.

The military confirmed that soldiers used bullhorns to tell approximately 200 Syrians to back away from the fence, but an IDF spokesperson said that this was due to concerns that they were approaching a live minefield near the border. The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters.

Syrian government forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on a rebel-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.

A string of towns and villages in Daraa province have accepted surrender deals, opposition sources in touch with rebel negotiators said, leaving only two main towns under rebel control.

The Golan remains contested but under Israeli control.

"Since Tuesday morning, heavy Russian airstrikes and barrel bombs dropped by the regime have been targeting an area straddling Quneitra and Daraa", Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The Observatory said an estimated 1,400 people were expected to be evacuated in a single group on Sunday. Israel does not want its enemies Iran and Hezbollah, both allies of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who are well entrenched in that area, to move forces near its border.

On Sunday fighters began to leave the Daraa Al-Balad neighborhood which had been under rebel control for years.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the US-Turkey deal on Syria's northeastern Manbij city with his American counterpart Donald Trump over the phone, Turkey's presidential press office said on Monday.

Abdel Rahman said that unlike in Daraa, fighter planes had not been used in the Quneitra offensive and that Russian Federation was not yet taking part.

Syria's conflict has killed more than 350,000 people since March 2011.

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