Advances by Syrian rebels spur Israel to increase Golan-area forces

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s military increased its forces on the northern border with Syria following advances by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights region.

The rebels reportedly began entering the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel on Saturday and threatened to retake the Golan. Most of Syrian President Hafez Assad’s troops have left the area, Ynet reported.

Ynet said that the Israeli troops sent to the Golan are intended to to back up the elite forces and operational artillery units patrolling the area.

Rebels shot firearms near the Israeli border in the demilitarized zone.

"We are now in front of the occupied Golan, the blessed land sold by Hafez Assad," a rebel says in a video clip posted online Saturday night, according to Ynet.

"For 40 years, not a single gunshot has been fired on this land. For 40 years, not a single gunshot has been fired towards Israel," the rebel said. "We will free the Golan and it will return to the free Syrian people, with the help of Allah."

Also Saturday, the rebels released 21 Filipino United Nations peacekeeping troops into Jordan that they had held for four days. The day before the release, several peacekeeping troops left their posts on the border and crossed into Israel.

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