WATCH: Al-Nusra Front takes over Quneitra crossing

WATCH: Al-Nusra Front takes over Quneitra crossing

Al-Qaeda-linked rebels boast seizure of only border crossing between Israel and Syria

Al-Nusra Front fighters standing near the Quneitra crossing between Israel and Syria. (screen capture: YouTube)
Al-Nusra Front fighters standing near the Quneitra crossing between Israel and Syria. (screen capture: YouTube)

Video footage surfaced online Friday purporting to show Syrian rebels from the Al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, boasting their gains on the Israel-Syria border.

The group seized the Quneitra crossing Wednesday after a battle with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

“We are Al-Nusra fighters,” a man can be heard saying in the video. “We’ve just liberated the Syrian-Zionist crossing of Quneitra.”

The footage shows the heavily armed rebels’ takeover of the border town of Quneitra, which is visibly ruined by the recent battles.

A black Al-Nusra Front flag is later seen flying above the town, in place of a Syrian flag which flew aloft before.

As a result of the fighting on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, Israel raised its level of alert, an army spokesperson said Thursday.

The announcement followed several incidents in the area, including the abduction Thursday of 43 Fijian UN peacekeepers by the Al-Nusra Front at the Quneitra crossing with Israel, where fighting has raged this week between Syrian rebels and government forces.

Another 81 peacekeepers, from the Philippines, were trapped in the area by heavy clashes between rebels and Syrian troops, according to the UN.

On Wednesday, the Quneitra crossing was seized by rebel combatants, including members of the Nusra Front, one of the main groups fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad for control of the embattled country.

“Al-Nusra Front and other rebel groups took the Quneitra crossing, and heavy fighting with the Syrian army is continuing in the surrounding area,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO.

Also Wednesday, at least seven mortars fired from Syria landed in the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. The IDF said it had not determined whether the mortars were fired into Israel intentionally, or were a spillover from fighting between rival factions on the Syrian side of the border.

One Israeli man was lightly wounded Wednesday after a mortar landed near him, and earlier, an IDF officer was moderately injured as a result of stray fire from fighting between rebel groups and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria.

The Israel-Syria border region has seen intermittent exchanges of fire throughout the war in Syria. Although Israel has largely attributed these incidents to stray fire from clashes in Syria, there have been attempts to target Israeli soldiers.

In one deadly incident in June, a 15-year-old was killed when the car he was riding in was targeted by an anti-tank missile fired from the Syrian side, just south of the Quneitra crossing.

In June, the UN Security Council strongly condemned the intense fighting between Syrian government and opposition fighters in the Golan Heights and demanded an end to all military activity in the area. Syrian mortars overshooting their target have repeatedly hit the Israeli-controlled Golan, and UN peacekeepers have been abducted.

Thursday’s UN statement noted that UNDOF peacekeepers who were detained by armed forces in March and May were later safely released.

As of July, UNDOF has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

But the Philippine government last week said it would bring home its 331 peacekeeping forces from the Golan Heights after their tour of duty ends in October, amid the deteriorating security in the region.

In June 2013, Austria said it was withdrawing its 377 UN peacekeepers from the Golan Heights. Croatia also withdrew in 2013 amid fears its troops would be targeted.

AP and AFP contributed to this report

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