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      Syria Civil War Comes Close to Israeli Border

      At least 15 people killed in clashes between Assad's forces and army deserters, just 2 kilometers from the border with Israel.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 3/2/2012, 5:42 AM

      Members of the Free Syrian Army in Homs
      Members of the Free Syrian Army in Homs
      Reuters

      The civil war in Syria seems to be approaching Israel’s borders, according to reports received on Thursday.

      A Syrian human rights organization said that at least 15 people were killed throughout Thursday in clashes between Syrian President Bashar Assad's army and rebels in the Quneitra province.

      The organization said the fighting took place in the village of Jebata al-Khashab, which is located just two kilometers from the border fence with Israel.

      The Syrian organization said in a statement, “Clashes have been taking place since the morning between Assad’s army and a group of deserters in a village near the occupied Golan Heights.” The statement said eight soldiers and seven deserters were killed in the clashes.

      It was the first time since the uprising against Assad began last March that clashes were reported so close to the border with Israel.

      The capital of the Quneitra province is the city of Quneitra, which was conquered by Israeli troops during the 1967 Six Day War. It was briefly recaptured by Syria during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but Israel regained control in a subsequent counter-offensive.

      The city was almost completely destroyed before Israeli withdrew from it in June of 1974. Today, it lies in a demilitarized United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone between Syria and Israel, a short distance from the de facto border between the two countries, and is populated by only a handful of families.

      The clashes in Quneitra come after earlier reports that forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have taken over the Baba Amr neighborhood in the city of Homs, the leading stronghold of the anti-Assad rebellion.

      According to reports on Thursday, most of the rebels in the Baba Amr section retreated after withstanding three weeks of government shelling. Opposition members called the retreat "tactical" and noted that a few combatants remained inside Baba Amr in order to provide for cover for their retreating colleagues.

      The assault on Homs, which began February 4, has left hundreds of civilians dead. An Iranian armored brigade was spotted by Syrian Army defectors who are among the opposition forces, and who say that Iran and Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorists have joined with Assad's troops in the assault Syrian citizens.