The Syrian Army launched an offensive in the Golan Heights on Thursday, in what fighters said was part of a major assault to regain ground in southern Syria the government had lost over the last three years.
Fighters said the attacks began at dawn, when the army stormed the village of Samdaniya al Gharbiya, near the border with Israel. The army said the village was captured, but rebels in the area said heavy fighting continued.
Under cover of rain and fog, government troops pushed toward the strategic town of Hamdanieh, in the Syrian Golan Heights, which they lost two years ago, according to residents and rebels.
“They staged a large-scale attack under cover of heavy fog, where you can hardly someone only a few meters away from you, on the two villages,” said Abu Yahya, a spokesman for Al-Wiyat Al Furqan, a fighter group in the area.
The attacks came in Quneitra province, a sensitive piece of territory around 70 km (40 miles) southwest of the capital, Damascus. It has seen frequent fighting between various fighter groups and the Syrian military and its militia allies. The army was mostly relying on ground troops and heavy artillery bombardments, said a member of another fighter group, Seif Al Sham. Proximity to the Israeli border makes it difficult to use air power extensively.
Israel seized part of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed it later. Concern is growing in Israel over the presence in Quneitra of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government.
Syrian state media said Samir Qantar, a Hezbollah leader killed in Damascus two weeks ago, had been involved in another offensive earlier this year in Quneitra.
Israel welcomed Qantar’s death but has not confirmed it carried out the attack that killed him. The offensive in Quneitra was the government’s first in the south since Russia joined the war on Sept. 30 in support of its ally, Bashar Assad.
Meanwhile, Daesh on Thursday claimed the bombing of two restaurants in a predominantly Kurdish city in northeastern Syria the previous night, an attack that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 30.
Source: Arab News