Syrian army units withdraw from Israeli border region

Opposition to Assad is still unable to sustain control of the region, Israeli expert says

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

View of the Syrian village of Bir Ajam from northern Israel on November 11, 2012 (photo credit: Flash90)
View of the Syrian village of Bir Ajam from northern Israel on November 11, 2012 (photo credit: Flash90)

Units from the Syrian military have withdrawn from the Israeli border region and moved towards the capital of Damascus, as fighting continues between government and opposition forces along the Syrian Golan Heights, al-Jazeera reported.

The Free Syrian Army took control of Jubata al-Khashab, a town adjacent to the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel, the TV channel said Saturday. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, reported that the Syrian army retaliated by bombarding the border towns of Jubata al-Khashab, Breiqa, and Bir Ajam.

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Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syrian and Lebanese politics at Tel Aviv University, said that the regime and the rebels have been engaged in a tug-of-war for months, with neither side able to maintain control for an extended period of time.

“Most of the civilian population in the area opposes the regime, but that’s also where most of the army is concentrated, making it difficult for the rebels to operate there,” Zisser told The Times of Israel.

The Free Syrian Army did not succeed in taking control of Quneitra, the largest city in the area, or the border crossing with Israel of the same name, he said.

“These are armed gangs fighting an army. They periodically take control of a few villages, but cannot hold them over time,” Zisser added.

An IDF spokesman refused to comment on developments in Syria, saying only that the Israeli army is closely monitoring developments on the Syrian side.

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