Syria Conflict: Rebels Launch Quneitra Offensive | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Syria Conflict: Rebels Launch Quneitra Offensive

Posted: Jun 18, 2015 at 8:04 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

A rebel alliance in southern Syria has begun an offensive against government forces in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A spokesman for the Southern Front said groups fighting in the operation had signed a pact, which did not involve the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

The area around the town of Quneitra came under heavy bombardment on Wednesday morning. Smoke could be seen rising from the area and small arms fire was heard. Later, sirens sounded at two Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights.

Quneitra, about 70km (40 miles) south-west of the capital Damascus, has frequently seen clashes between various rebel factions and government forces since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

Southern Front spokesman Issam al-Rayes announced the start of the operation to “liberate remaining regime targets in Quneitra” late on Tuesday.

The groups taking part were all part of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and had “signed a mutual defence pact,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Southern Front had “prohibited” al-Nusra from joining the operation because it did “not share the vision for a free Syria we are fighting for,” he added.

The state news agency, Sana, reported that army units had killed a number of “terrorists” in Um Batina, east of the reservoir, and to the south of Karm Jaba.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile reported that at least seven rebels and 10 pro-government fighters had been killed in fierce clashes between the military and rebel groups, including al-Nusra and other Islamist factions, in the north of Quneitra province since Tuesday.

The rebels had surrounded the government-held Druze town of Hadar after taking a strategic hilltop to the north, the UK-based monitoring group said.