The IDF verified reports Thursday morning that Syrian rebel forces had conquered parts of the Golan city of Kuneitra, placing them directly on the border with Israel. IDF officials said that the takeover of the area by rebel forces was a “significant development.”
During the battle between rebel and Syrian army forces, a mortar shell fell on a UN observer base in the area. A UN worker was injured. IDF officials have advised agricultural workers in the border area to stay away from the border until the security situation can be clarified.
In recent months, there has been a shakeout among the various Syrian rebel groups, and one of the dominant ones that has emerged is Jabhat al-Nusra – closely identified with Al Qaeda. The Sunni Islamist group is seeking to take over as much of Syria as possible and place it under Sharia Islamic law.
Several weeks ago, the group took up positions close to Syria's border with Israel. In a video released on Youtube, the group's soldiers are seen conducting training exercises in the Dar'a area of southern Syria, right next to the Heights. In the exercise, the soldiers are seen attempting to take over a building, using weapons and bombs. They are also seen singing Arabic songs in praise of terror, and swearing revenge on the “unbelievers” - the Alawite group that runs Syria, as well as Shi'ite Muslims who, according to Sunni views, hold an incorrect interpretation of Islam.
The video provides evidence of a well-trained, motivated fighting force, military experts said. The group is clearly better equipped and trained than the other rebel groups, the experts said, and apparently has incorporated a large number of Sunni Muslim defectors from the Syrian army.
While the group says that putting the “Syrian house in order” is its first order of business, it says that it eventually plans to deal with the “Zionist enemy” and end the “occupation,” first of the Golan, and then of the “rest of Palestine.”