Iranian Proxies Less Than 7 Miles from Israeli Border

YERUSHALAYIM -

The war in Syria has come closer to the border with Israel than at any time before in over six years of fighting, as Hezbollah and Syrian army forces seek to crush the rebels in a stronghold less than seven miles away.

The rebels groups reported heavy bombardments and artillery fire on their positions, and the Syrian army claimed it had encircled Mughr al Meer at the foot of Mount Hermon, the key position on the Golan Heights.

With defeat apparently imminent, negotiations for a deal to allow rebel fighters to leave for other insurgent-held areas were under way, rebel officials there told Reuters.

The Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, Shiite militias supported by Iran and local fighters from the Druze sect have besieged the rebel enclave around Beit Jin for weeks. In recent days they captured various positions, leaving the rebels trapped inside the town itself.

Israel has been lobbying for months to keep Iranian proxies away from its border with Syria in any ceasefire agreements, but with disappointing results.

In November, an Israeli official said that under a deal hammered out between the U.S., Russia, and Jordan, militias associated with Iran would be allowed to maintain positions as little as 3.1-4.3 miles from the border in some areas, much less than Israel had requested.