Hours after hundreds of Syrian opposition and their relatives left the southern city of Daraa on Sunday under a deal, the Syrian regime accused its longtime enemy Israel of targeting its position in the war-ravaged country's north. At least nine pro-regime fighters died in an overnight strike in northern Syria blamed on Israel, a monitor said yesterday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Suspected Israeli air strikes have hit Syrian regime positions near Damascus and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama in the past, but they rarely occur as far north as Aleppo.
Since the Syria war broke out, Israel had been silently carrying out aerial strikes in Syria, mainly targeting regime and Iranian bases. Israel seems very determined to erase the Iranian presence, as it openly informed the media about the aerial operations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would attack Iran's "proxies" wherever they are in Syria. Moreover, Israeli media claims that the Israeli army has been increasing its military presence around the Golan Heights.
The strike came the same day the regime and allied fighters launched an offensive on opposition-held areas in the southern province of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a monitoring group said.
"More than 800 shells have been fired on several areas in the province where fierce fighting has been going on between the regime forces and the rebel factions since dawn," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, as reported by dpa. "The government forces took control of the village of Mashara in the central countryside of Quneitra," the Britain-based watchdog said.
The fighting is taking place just four kilometers away from a disengagement area between the countryside of Quneitra and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. At least five fighters on the Syrian side and three members of the opposition factions were killed in the fighting, the watchdog added.
After securing Damascus in May, Bashar Assad turned his attention to the opposition in the strategic south where protests against his rule first erupted in 2011. Nearly three weeks of bombardment saw the beleaguered opposition agree with Russia earlier this month to hand over Daraa province, before reaching a similar deal for its capital this week. On Sunday, opposition groups and civilians who did not want to live under regime control were granted safe passage to opposition-held Idlib in Syria's northwest.