Syrian army retakes crossing into Israeli-held Golan Heights


An Israeli army Merkava tanks maneuvers during a drill in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria on May 27, 2013. The Syrian army retook a border crossing into the Golan Heights on June 6, 2013, just hours after Syrian rebels claimed victory in capturing the UN-patrolled crossing.



A day after Syrian rebels lost the strategic and symbolic town of Qusayr to the Syrian army, they thought they had gained control of the Quneitra crossing into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights Thursday.

Their victory was short-lived, however. Israeli security sources said Syrian troops took back the crossing after heavy fighting.

Earlier, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a spokesman for the Austrian Defense Ministry reported that rebels had taken the crossing, according to Reuters.

Israeli citizens have been ordered to stay away from the border fence area by authorities as fighting continues in the UN-patrolled demilitarized zone. The crossing is normally operated by the UN Disengagement Observer Force.

CNN reported that clashes continued even after the army took control, but were less fierce.

More from GlobalPost: Qusayr captured: Syria’s army regains control of strategic town

Like Qusayr, which the army recaptured on Wednesday, Quneitra holds symbolic importance for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The town was lost to Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967, but was reclaimed in 1973 by Assad's father Hafez al-Assad.

The Israel Defense Forces filed a complaint with the UN about the Syrian army's presence in the area, Israel Radio reported.

"We are following events in the Golan Heights, which is a very sensitive region, with particularly close attention," said Herve Ladsous, the head of the UN's peacekeeping operations. "We are doing everything we can to reduce risks. We have closed posts that were too exposed, reinforced our equipment and vehicles, and our activities are more static."

The 1,000-strong UNDOF peacekeepers had reportedly withdrawn to their bunkers without suffering any casualties.

More from GlobalPost: What's the big deal about Qusayr?

In Israel, people feel that the war is coming closer to becoming a factor in their daily lives and not just a distant vision across the Golan's craggy hills.

As the border crossing fell to the rebels this morning, one resident of Majdal Shams, on the northern Golan Heights, said that two rockets had fallen a few hundred feet from the town last night, and that "there are booms all the time. You can't get away from it. You see the combat taking place."