Syrian Flag Raised in Quneitra, on Syrian Side of Golan Heights

Uniformed men ride a pick-up truck as they carry a Syrian flag in Quneitra on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, as seen from the Israeli side of Golan Heights, Thursday. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

Pro-Assad forces raised the Syrian flag in Quneitra on Thursday, as the government continued its push to regain full control of the Syrian Golan Heights, strategic territory that borders Israel and Jordan.

A Reuters photographer saw uniformed men raise the Syrian national flag and the black, white, green and red flag of the Baath Party in the long-abandoned city. No weapons were immediately visible.

The photographer was reporting from a vantage point on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights that overlooks Quneitra.

Forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by a Russian air campaign, have been pushing into Quneitra Province following an offensive last month that routed rebels in adjoining Deraa Province who were once backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states.

Damascus is set to recover control of the Golan in a major victory over rebels, who have agreed to surrender terms. The army is still battling a local Islamic State affiliate around the Yarmouk Basin nearby.

Israel says it is concerned that Assad may defy a 1974 U.N. armistice that demilitarized much of the Golan, or let his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements deploy there. Israel liberated the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

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