BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels, including fighters from an al-Qaida-linked group, seized control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights on Wednesday after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, activists and rebels said.
The capture of the post along Syria's de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic value than strategic, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages that were under siege by government troops.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an array of rebel fighters, including from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, took the crossing after heavy fighting that left at least 20 Syrian soldiers and an unknown number of rebels dead.
It said clashes also raged in the towns of Jaba, Tal Kroum and Rawadi in Quneitra province.
Gen. Ibrahim Jbawi, the spokesman for the Free Syrian Army's southern front, confirmed the rebel gains, as did the Local Coordination Committees activist group.
Jbawi said Syrian forces still control another crossing nearby, typically used to search products entering from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights into Syria — usually, crates of apples.
Kenan Mohammed, a spokesman for the Western-backed Syrian opposition, said rebels aimed to push Assad's troops from all of Quneitra. He also said opposition forces posed no threat to Israel.
"Our aim isn't Israel right now, and we in the FSA haven't targeted Israeli lands," he said, adding that the rebels' focus is on Assad and the extremist Islamic State group. "The matter of Israel — it's not for now, and it's more political."
Continue reading this story on the...