Report: Assad Partially Recaptures Syrian Golan Heights
Reports Friday indicate that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have partially recaptured the Quneitra region just east of the Israeli-Syrian Golan Heights border, which rebel forces captured in intense fighting on Wednesday.
According to the reports from the Iranian Fars news agency as cited by Walla!, the Syrian army has regained control over several Quneitra villages, including Jaba, Tel Krum and Al Ruachi.
The fighting continues on Friday morning in an attempt to take back full control after rebels seized the Quneitra crossing to Israel from the Syrian side.
Senior IDF sources predicted Assad's move, projecting that he would try to reconquer the vital area over the course of Thursday night. One source defined the security situation as "troubling," while adding "it's clear to us that the Syrian army doesn't want to deteriorate the situation and is being very careful about errant fire towards the Israeli side."
There was a spillover of fire on Wednesday, however, as tank and mortar shells lightly wounded two Israelis.
The Syrian rebels, who the US said belonged to the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, also captured 43 UN peacekeepers from Fiji while conquering the area.
Negotiations are currently ongoing to secure their release, as well as the release of 75 Filipino peacekeepers currently engaged in a stand-off with rebel forces. The Philippines described the situation as "tense," but added that no shots have been fired.
Half of Syria has been displaced
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird decried the situation, while noting "the Assad regime is solely to blame for the spiraling violence and the diminished security situation."
During the course of the four year Syrian civil war around 200,000 people have been killed according to the UN.
A new UN report Friday adds that 3 million Syrians have become refugees, and another 6.5 million are displaced within Syria, reports Reuters. As a result, "almost half of all Syrians have now been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives," stated the UN.
"The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
That assessment echoes the words of outgoing UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay, who last Thursday lambasted the UN Security Council for not taking action amid "international paralysis."