Syrian rebels seize control near Golan

Syrian rebels have taken control of nearly all villages near the country’s frontier with the Golan Heights, according to Israel’s defense minister, who said Nov. 14 that Bashar Assad’s forces were “displaying ever-diminishing efficiency.”

Fighting near the border over the past week had already drawn Israeli retaliatory fire into Syria twice after apparently stray mortar shells flew into the Israel-held Golan Heights. On Nov. 12, an Israeli anti-air tank struck a Syrian military mortar crew.

“Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Nov. 14 during a tour of the Golan Heights, the plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed. He said Israel will remain “vigilant and alert.”

The Syrian civil war threatens to enflame an already combustible region. The fighting already has already spilled into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. — ap & jta