The Syrian villages along the border with Israel have been taken over by anti-Assad rebels, and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have fled, an activist on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights told The Times of Israel on Monday.
The Quneitra border crossing is still being held by the Syrian regime, he added, but only because the rebels prefer not to take control if it, given the political sensitivities of such a move.
Aiman Abu-Jable, an anti-Assad activist from Majdal Shams who edits the Arabic news website Jawlan.org, said that according to information he has received from the Syrian side, Assad’s army has vacated the entire border area with Israel and fled to the Damascus region, where intense fighting is underway.
In fact, “the regime wants the rebels to take control of all villages on the border area so that Israel intervenes in the conflict, and then Assad can accuse Israel of conspiring against him,” Abu-Jable said.
He noted that the border villages of Jubata Al-Khashab, Bir Ajam and Khan Arnabeh were bombarded by Assad’s army on Monday morning, for the second consecutive day.
“These villages are currently controlled by the rebels. They [the rebels] are not approaching the Quneitra border crossing on purpose, realizing the political ramifications of such a move,” Abu-Jable said.
Footage emerging from the Syrian villages in the last few days seemed to corroborate Abu-Jable’s report.
A Youtube video posted on Sunday featured sounds of gunfire at the village of Jubata Al-Khashab, just across the border from the Golan Druze town of Masada.
At Khan Arnabeh, 8 kilometers (5 miles) southeast of there, footage of damage caused to shops by government forces was uploaded to Facebook by the village municipality. The page displayed images of government snipers standing on rooftops around the village square.
A video uploaded on Saturday displayed the ruins of the local Baath party headquarters, indicating that the regime no longer yielded effective control over Khan Arnabeh.
Three masked men, identifying themselves as belonging to the “Military Revolutionary Council of the Quneitra Province,” claimed on February 20 to have destroyed the headquarters of the military police at Khan Arnabeh and a military checkpoint in the village.
In a video testimony, which has become a popular method for the Free Syrian Army to document its activities and display the humane treatment of prisoners, a masked man claimed his forces in the area had destroyed two tanks, captured weapons and ammunition, and imprisoned a Druze officer and 17 soldiers.
The masked man is seen questioning the plain-clothed prisoners of war, asking for their ranks and personal numbers. The men, some of whom are volunteers from areas across Syria, confess on camera to having received orders from their officers to loot local shops, confiscate bread, and sexually assault women.
The prisoners also admit to selling weapons to villagers in Hadher and Harfa, likely two local communities still supporting the Assad regime.
The IDF would not comment Monday on developments on the Syrian side of the border.