Connect to share and comment
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels seized a U.N.-manned crossing between Syria and Israeli-occupied territory on Thursday, opposition sources said, but Israeli security sources reported Syrian troops later retook it after heavy fighting.
The rarely used crossing, in a U.N.-patrolled demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights, is the only transit point between Syrian and Israeli disengagement lines set in 1974. Battles for its control seemed likely to heighten Israeli security concerns stoked by Syria's civil war.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an Austrian Defence Ministry spokesman said rebels had taken the crossing, which is operated by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) near the Syrian city of Quneitra.
Austrians account for about 380 of the 1,000-strong UNDOF mission, and the Austrian spokesman said the peacekeepers had withdrawn to their bunkers and had suffered no casualties.
Several hours after the transit point was seized, Israeli security sources said the Syrian army had recaptured the area, and Syrian state television reported "the crossing is now safe". The Syrian Observatory said it was not clear who was in control.
Israel is worried that the Golan, which it captured from Syria in 1967, and where battles between the two enemies were again fought in 1973, will become a springboard for attacks on Israelis by jihadi fighters who are trying to topple Assad.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the area leading to Quneitra had been closed and that two Syrians who were wounded in the fighting had been taken into Israel for treatment. She could not say whether they were rebels or army soldiers.
(Reporting by Erika Solomon in Beirut; Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Michael Shields in Vienna; Editing by Alistair Lyonr)