Quneitra Governorate clashes (2012–present)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Quneitra Governorate clashes
Part of the Syrian civil war
Date 2 November 2012 – ongoing
(1 year, 8 months, 4 weeks and 2 days)
Location Quneitra Governorate
Result Ongoing
  • Government forces largely withdrew from the area by January 2013[1]
  • Government forces retain control of the main crossing into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights[2][3]
  • Rebels started a new offensive at the end of the January 2014[4]
  • The opposition claims control of over 80% of the Quneitra Governorate countryside
Belligerents
SyrianNationalCoalitionOfficialLogo.svg National Coalition  Syria
Commanders and leaders
Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir Syria Bashar al-Assad
Syria Wael Nader Al-Halqi
Units involved
unknown 7th Mechanized Division
  • 68th Mechanized Brigade
  • 78th Armoured Brigade
Strength
at least 200 fighters[5] unknown
Casualties and losses
20 killed on 27.03.14 (Hezbollah claim)[6]
200+ killed 05.05.2014[7]
53 killed 01.02.2013[8]
1 KIA 19.03.2014[9]
2 unidentified Syrian militants killed[10]
5 Syrian soldiers killed and 16 injured[11][12]
2+ Syrian civilians killed in Syrian gov-t bombings[13]

Israel 6 Israeli soldiers injured[14][15]
1 Israeli civilian killed and two injured[16]

The 2012–present Quneitra Governorate clashes began in early November 2012, when the Syrian Army began engaging with rebels in several towns and villages of the Quneitra Governorate. The clashes quickly intensified and spilled into the UN-supervised neutral demilitarized zone between Syrian controlled territory and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The fighting came to international attention when on March 2013, Syrian rebels took hostage 21 Filipino UN personnel, who had been a part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the neutral buffer zone between Syria and Israel.[17] According to UN official they were taken hostage near Observation Post 58, which had sustained damage and was evacuated the previous weekend, following heavy combat in close proximity at Al Jamla.[17] The UN personnel were later released with Jordanian mediation.

Israel has been briefly involved in the fighting in several incidents, such as on 11 November 2012, when mortar shells from Syria landed near an Israeli military outpost in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, responding by firing "warning shots" into Syria.[18] This accounted for the first direct cross-border incidents between the two countries since the Yom Kippur War nearly forty years prior. Other occasions of short cross-border fire exchanges followed in early 2013 and on March 2014, with several wounded Israeli soldiers reported in each incident.

Background[edit]

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria. After a failed attempt to recapture the region in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Syria and Israel have remained in a shaky truce with a United Nations-monitored demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the countries. Many countries have condemned Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, especially their unilateral annexation of the area in 1981 and subsequent settlement construction.

The border remained quiet for nearly four decades until the outbreak of the Arab Spring. During the 2011 Israeli border demonstrations, Palestinian protesters approached the border and were subsequently fired upon by Israeli forces. Four demonstrators were killed and dozens were injured. Additionally, Israeli soldiers were injured when protesters attempted to cross into the Druze town of Majdal Shams located on the Israeli-occupied side of the ceasefire line.[19] As the Syrian civil war progressed, border clashes began to escalate, with spillover conflicts in Lebanon and Turkey prompting fears of an escalation to a wider regional conflict.

There were some concerns of civil unrest on the Israeli side of the border as well, particularly among the Golan Druze. The Druze population of the Israeli-occupied portion of Golan Heights numbers around 20,000 individuals, with majority of them still holding Syrian citizenship. Prior to the war, the Golan Druze were overwhelmingly in support of the government of Bashar al-Assad, as his government has long been staunchly supportive of their interests and opposition to Israeli rule. Many of them were able to conduct business across the border in Syria as a result of agreements between the Syrian and Israeli governments. As the civil war deepened, however, a minority of Golan Druze began to voice opposition to the Assad government. According to local sources, perhaps 22 individuals had crossed the border into Syria to fight for the rebels by late September 2012. Public support for the Syrian government nevertheless remains high, while rumours of pro-Assad spies intimidate potential dissenters fearful of being banned from cross-border trade.[20]

Rebel-Government clashes and ceasefire line incidents[edit]

On 2 November 2012, three Syrian Army tanks crossed into the UN-administered demilitarized zone and clashed with rebels near the village of Beer Ajam.[citation needed] During the clashes, stray bullets hit an Israeli patrol in the area. Israel responded on 5 November by filing a complaint with the United Nations Security Council, claiming Syria violated the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement[21] signed following the Yom Kippur War.[22] The terms of the 1974 armistice prevent the Syrian military from conducting operations within the DMZ. Sources within the Israeli military cite these restrictions as a potential reason why the armed opposition drew the army into combat in the area.[5]

By 10 November 2012, at least 30 Syrian rebels and soldiers had been killed in the fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Clashes were reportedly ongoing in and around the villages of Bariqa, Beer Ajam and al-Hersh.[23]

On 12 November 2012, Syrian Government forces began shelling opposition positions in the village of Bariqa near the border with Israel. A foreign journalist reported seeing the fighting from the Israeli side of the border, with government forces driving rebels toward the border with heavy artillery. About thirty minutes later, a shell from Syria landed near Tel Hazeka in the Golan Heights. Israel retaliated by shelling Syrian government positions with Merkava tanks, resulting in "direct hits" on the sources of the fire. According to Israeli Army Radio, the Assad government requested that Israel stop firing, though it was not clear if the Israeli shelling caused any casualties.[18][24]

By 13 November 2012, a force of at least 200 rebels had captured the Syrian-side villages of Beer Ajam and Bariqa. Rebels were reportedly in control of the areas to the north and south of Quneitra.[5] The following day, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak claimed that rebels were in control of most of the villages on the eastern slopes of the Golan Heights, and that the Syrian Army had been unable to enter them.[25]

On 23 December 2012, SOHR reported fighting between rebels and the army in the town of Hureyra in which rockets were fired. Jebata al-Khashab was also reportedly shelled by the army.

On 25 December 2012, three civilians reportedly died in the bombardment of the village of Jaba, according to SOHR, which also reported "violent clashes" in the town of Khan Arnaba. On 27 December, SOHR reported one rebel and one civilian killed in clashes in the province.

On 28 December 2012, SOHR reported that six rebels, including a commander, and five government soldiers were killed in combat in the villages of Ruwayhinah and Zubaydah. The following day, SOHR reported that two rebels died of their wounds incurred in earlier combat with government forces in the area.

On 30 December 2012, SOHR reported clashes between rebels and government troops in Beer Ajam that left one rebel dead.

On 6 March 2013, 21 UN personnel were taken hostage by Syrian rebels in the neutral zone. They were later released with Jordanian mediation.

On 24 March 2013, the IDF fired a guided missile at a Syrian machine gun nest after Israeli troops were shot at twice in the Golan Heights. No Israeli soldiers were hurt in the shooting, during which army vehicles were hit.[26]

On 7 May 2013, 18 rebel fighters were reported killed in heavy fighting in the province.

There was an exchange of fire between Syria and Israel on 21 May 2013 in the Golan Heights. An Israeli vehicle was hit by Syrian fire with the Israeli's retaliating and destroying the source of the attack.[27]

Early on 6 June 2013, rebels attacked and temporarily captured a Golan border crossing. However, the same day, government forces counter-attacked with tanks and armoured personnel carriers, recapturing the crossing.[28] Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from the Golan Heights, said that this marked a significant point in the crisis.[2][3] Rebels also attacked a military checkpoint in the largely destroyed and abandoned city of Quneitra.[29] A shell landed in an UN base nearby as a result of Government-Rebel fire-exchanges. An Austrian defense ministry official confirmed to the Associated Press that rebel troops captured the crossing point and that UN forces have withdrawn from the area.[29]

On 16 July 2013, Rebel fighters retreated from the al-Qahtaniya village because of violent regime bombardment on the village after violent clashes between both sides.[verification needed]

On 31 January 2014, rebels captured al-Susiyah city and 5 other villages.[4]

On 7 February 2014, rebels managed to stop a regime convoy that was heading to Al-Dwaieh village.[30]

On 16 February 2014, Abdel al-Ilah al-Bachir, chief of the FSA Military Council in Quneitra, was appointed chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army.[31]

On 22 February 2014, troops and pro-government gunmen known as National Defense Forces captured the areas of Rasm al-Hour and Rasm al Sayd, south of the town of Quneitra. SOHR confirmed troops were on the offensive, adding that the air force was taking part in the attack.[32]

On 24 February 2014, rebels managed to 'infiltrate' the Abu-Dhiab and Khalil tank platoons in Tal-Al-Jabieh area, seizing various weapons and two tanks. It was also reported that about 40 regular army soldiers were killed and a number of others captured.[33] Al-Arabiya reported this as a major advance of FSA in Quneitra governorate.[34]

On 26 February 2014, the Army dispatched reinforcements to the province, after recent gains by rebels there.[35] It was also reported that rebels declared their control of over 80% of the Golan countryside through coordination committees. They also announced a new offensive against the bases in Quneitra, especially Brigade 61.[36]

On 1 March 2014, two rockets were fired on an Israeli post on Mount Hermon, in what is widely believed to be a retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah target near the Lebanese-Syrian border.[37]

On 18 March 2014, an Israeli jeep traveling on the Golan Heights near the Syrian border came under attack, when an explosive device was detonated in its vicinity. One soldier was seriously wounded. Another three soldiers sustained light-to-moderate injuries. IDF 155 Artillery battery returned fire across the border following the incident and shot several shells on a Syrian outpost.[38] Israel responded by carrying out multiple airstrikes against Syrian targets, including a military headquarters, artillery batteries and a training base of the Syrian army.[39] The Syrian army reported that the Israeli airstrikes killed one Syrian soldier and wounded seven.[40]

On 28 March 2014, Israeli soldiers opened fire on two gunmen seen attempting to sabotage the border fence with Syria on the Golan Heights. IDF said both armed suspects were struck by the gunfire.[41]

On 7 April 2014, rebels announced the start of a new offensive in the Tell Ahmar area to capture two strategic hills.[42] They managed to advance while damaging a tank according to the SOHR.[43] The rebels captured one of the strategic hills later that day.[44][45] Rebels also captured the village of Tulul al-Humur after besieging it for weeks.[46]

According to Iranian Fars news, "fierce clashes" in Quneitra Governorate in early May 2014 resulted in "200 terrorists" killed.[7]

On 8 May, rebels launched a military operation against al-Qahtania, al-Hamedia, Quneitra border crossing and the al-Rawadi checkpoint in Quneitra province.[47]

On 23 June 2014, the IDF launched several airstrikes targeting government troops in retaliation for an attack the day before that killed an Israeli teenager from the Arab village of Arraba.[48] Four soldiers were killed and nine injured during the strikes.[12] On 15 July 2014, the IDF bombarded the city of Quneitra, killing at least 4 persons. It also bombarded the Brigade 90 base.[49]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ AFP (6 January 2013). "Israel to fortify Syria border fence". NOW. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Syria retakes Israeli-occupied Golan crossing
  3. ^ a b Syrian army retakes Golan frontier crossing
  4. ^ a b La rébellion gagne du terrain dans le sud de la Syrie | The rebellion is gaining ground in southern Syria - The Arab Chronicle
  5. ^ a b c Greenwood, Phoebe; Ruth Sherlock; Damien McElroy (13 November 2012). "Syrian rebels seize territory north of Golan Heights". London: The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Syrian Army Kills Scores of Terrorists across Country
  7. ^ a b Farsnews
  8. ^ Syria Suicide Attack on Regime Kills 53 — Naharnet
  9. ^ "Israeli air strikes in Golan 'kill Syrian soldier'". BBC News. 19 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Israel kills two Syrian gunmen on Golan border | The Times of Israel
  11. ^ 1 Syrian soldier killed, 7 wounded in Israeli airstrikes - The Hindu
  12. ^ a b Syria: 4 killed, 9 wounded in Israeli airstrikes | Fox News
  13. ^ http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/164782/70-killed-in-alleged-regime-attacks-in-syria.html
  14. ^ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4438652,00.html
  15. ^ Kershner, Isabel (18 March 2014). "Blast in Golan Heights Wounds 4 Israeli Soldiers". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ Lappin, Yaakov (22 March 2014). "14-year-old killed in Golan Heights in cross-border fire from Syria". Jerusalem Post. 
  17. ^ a b Syrian rebels abduct UN observers in Golan Heights | World Tribune
  18. ^ a b Josef Federman (12 November 2012). "Israel strikes Syrian armor in retaliation after mortar shells land in Golan". Associated Press. [dead link]
  19. ^ Pfeffer, Anshel (27 April 2011). "IDF unprepared for Syria border breach, despite intelligence tips". Haaretz. Israel. 
  20. ^ Stratford, Charles (28 September 2012). "Golan's Druze divided over Syria unrest". Majdal Shams: Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  21. ^ United Nations Security Council Document 11302-Add.1. S/11302/Add.1 30 May 1973. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  22. ^ "Letter to UNSC regarding the Syrian Border". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 5 November 2012. 
  23. ^ AAP (10 November 2012). "More than 30 Syrians killed in Golan". PerthNow (The Sunday Times (Western Australia)). Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  24. ^ "Syria crisis: Israeli tanks 'hit Syrian units' in Golan". BBC News. 12 November 2012. 
  25. ^ Williams, Dan; Alistair Lyon (14 November 2012). "Israel says Syrian rebels hold villages on Golan slopes". Jerusalem: Reuters. Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  26. ^ Israel opens fire after 'shooting from inside Syria', BBC News, 24 Mar 2013, retrieved 25 Mar 2013 
  27. ^ BBC News - Syria and Israel in exchange of fire
  28. ^ Syria conflict: Army 'retakes Golan Heights crossing'
  29. ^ a b Battle rages over Golan Heights border crossing | The Times of Israel
  30. ^ "Battles rage in Al-Quneitra". Syria Newsdesk. 7 February 2014. 
  31. ^ english.al-akhbar.com/content/syria-fsa-appoints-new-leader-it-moves-south
  32. ^ "Syrian troops advance near Golan Heights city". AP. February 22, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Opposition fighters make gains in Al-Qunaytirah". Syria Newsdesk. 24 February 2014. 
  34. ^ http://english.alarabiya.net/en/webtv/news-bulletin/2014/02/24/1800GMT.html
  35. ^ "Regime forces inch closer to Aleppo". The Daily Star. 26 February 2014. 
  36. ^ "Clashes escalate on Syria's southern front". Al-Monitor. 26 February 2014. 
  37. ^ "Hezbollah main suspect in Golan Heights rocket attack". The Daily Star. 3 March 2014. 
  38. ^ "Explosive device detonated near IDF jeep on Syria border; 3 soldiers wounded". Jerusalem Post. 18 March 2014. 
  39. ^ "Israel strikes Syrian army targets in response to attack on IDF jeep". Jerusalem Post. 19 March 2014. 
  40. ^ "1 Syrian soldier killed, 7 wounded in Israeli airstrikes". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 19 March 2014. 
  41. ^ "IDF soldiers shoot two gunmen attempting to sabotage border fence on Golan". Jerusalem Post. 28 March 2014. 
  42. ^ Syria rebels lay siege to strategic city, Al Jazeera English, 20 mars 2014.
  43. ^ الاعلان عن بدء معركة "فجر التوحيد نصرة للأنفال"
  44. ^ Rebels claim gains in Aleppo and Qunaitra, Daily Star, April 08, 2014.
  45. ^ تقدم للنصرة والكتائب المقاتلة في القنيطرة
  46. ^ Rebels claim gains in Aleppo and Qunaitra
  47. ^ [1] Arrests in Damascus and the announcement of a new battle in Quneitra]
  48. ^ Israel launches airstrikes in Syria after teen is killed
  49. ^ http://syriahr.com/index.php?option=com_news&nid=20990&Itemid=2&task=displaynews#.U8Uu2fmSzX4 Israeli raids on the city of Quneitra