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Israel concerned over rebel control of nearly 70% of Syria border area

Israel is deeply concerned after Syrian opposition forces were reported to have control of more than 70 per cent of the border area, the Jerusalem Post said on Friday. In a report Israel’s security and intelligence commentator Yossi Melman quoted senior security officials as saying that Al-Nusra Front fighters have control of an area up to 100 km to the east of Israel’s border. He pointed out that Israel is particularly worried because these jihadist movements have declared Tel Aviv the target of their future operations after ousting the Assad regime.

According to the report, Al-Nusra elements have been able to get their hands on sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, which threaten Israel’s air superiority in Syria and allow them to control strategic posts atop nearby hills, which facilitate access to intelligence about the Israeli side of the border. In an online statement, the rebels said that Iranian intelligence officers are operating in the Golan Heights, something which was not known to Israeli intelligence, claimed Melman.

The newspaper report warned that if Jihadists control Quneitra City, which provides dominance of a strategic area, the Assad regime’s presence in the Syrian Golan will end once and for all. Israel is said to have been involved in a damage limitation exercise to win over the mainly Druze population in the border area to help deter the jihadists.

Melman confirmed reports that Israel and the United States are working with Jordan to recruit Syrians in the refugee camps in the Hashemite Kingdom to work against jihadist movements operating in Syria. He pointed out that the army unit responsible for recruiting agents, Unit 504, has been involved in order to obtain information from the Syrian side.

Haaretz newspaper editor in chief Aluf Benn revealed in March last year that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had visited Jordan secretly four times in December 2012 and January 2013 to discuss establishing a buffer zone on the Israel-Syrian border to prevent the concentration of jihadist movements near the border.

Meanwhile, military affairs commentator Yoav Limor has revealed that Israel turns a blind eye when the Assad regime uses MiG fighters to destroy opposition targets in the Golan. In a report published by Israel HaYom on Friday, Limor pointed out that according to the disengagement agreement signed in 1974 between Israel and Syria, the Syrian regime should not use fighter jets in the Golan Heights. He noted that Israel believes that its interests lie in weakening the opposition forces, particularly in the border region.

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