Al-Qaida Group Seizes Syria Crossing Near Israel

BEIRUT (Reuters/Hamodia) -
Druze men look at smoke rising on the Israeli side of the  Golan Heights near the border with Syria following fighting near the Quneitra border crossing on Wednesday.  (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Druze men look at smoke rising on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights near the border with Syria following fighting near the Quneitra border crossing on Wednesday. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Smoke rises near a U.N. post in the Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with President Bashar Assad’s forces, as seen from the Golan Heights, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Smoke rises near a U.N. post in the Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with President Bashar Assad’s forces, as seen from the Golan Heights, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
U.N. soldiers seen as smoke rises near Quneitra Crossing as it was seen from the Golan Heights on Wednesday. (Flash90)
U.N. soldiers seen as smoke rises near Quneitra Crossing as it was seen from the Golan Heights on Wednesday. (Flash90)

Al-Qaida’s Syria wing Nusra Front and other Islamist terrorists have taken control of a border crossing on the line dividing Syria from the Israeli Golan Heights, a group monitoring the Syrian conflict said on Wednesday.

During the fighting, a stray bullet wounded an Israeli soldier in the Golan Heights and Israel responded with artillery fire at two Syrian army positions, the Israeli military said.

The officer sustained wounds to the chest and was evacuated by helicopter to the Rambam hospital in Haifa where he was reported in moderate condition.

The IDF targeted two Syrian army positions resulting in the deaths of five soldiers and destruction of their base. A Syrian tank then advanced toward the Israeli side, but turned back when confronted by several Israeli tanks ready to fire.

Later in the day, a Syrian mortar fell in the northern Golan Heights, injuring a man in a northern kibbutz. MADA evacuated a lightly injured person who was hurt by the projectile, suffering a cut to his neck.

The terrorists, who have vowed to “liberate” the area, captured the Quneitra post on the Syrian side from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad after fierce clashes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The organization gathers information from all sides in the Syrian war.

Kenan Mohammed, a spokesman for the Western-backed Syrian opposition, said opposition forces posed no threat to Israel, at least for the present.

“Our aim isn’t Israel right now, and we in the FSA haven’t targeted Israeli lands,” he said, The matter of Israel — it’s not for now, and it’s more political.”

He denied there had been any collusion with Israel about seizing the border crossing.

The crossing is monitored by the United Nations, which oversees traffic between the two countries but the distance between the two warring adversaries’ posts is some 200 yards.

At least six mortars fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights over the course of the day as fighting continued.

Israeli soldiers observing the fighting could see large clouds of smoke and gunfire and explosions reverberated in the distance.

On Wednesday morning, Israeli farmers were instructed to keep a safe distance from the border.

Tourist sites in the area were also closed as Israeli officials sought to keep civilians far from the fighting, Israel Radio reported.

In addition, the IDF raised its level of alert, though an army spokesperson would not confirm that it had been raised to the highest level.