Wounded Syrian taken to Israeli hospital, rebels gain more ground

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Israeli medics transferred a wounded Syrian to hospital in Israel after he crossed the armistice line on the Golan Heights in a serious condition, an army spokeswoman said on Saturday.

This came as Syrian opposition made advances against regime troops in several parts of the country, seizing a strategic neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo.

“In light of his medical state, and based on humanitarian considerations, chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz approved the injured Syrian’s transfer to hospital in Israel for further medical treatment,” she said.

“On his release from hospital, he will be returned to Syria.”

The spokeswoman would not say whether the wounded man was a civilian or rebel fighter. She also stressed that the incident did not indicate a change in Israel’s policy, which discourages Syrian refugees from entering Israel but affords medical treatment in serious cases.

On Wednesday, a rebel fighter who had been taken to a hospital in Israel died of his wounds, while five other Syrians seeking medical aid at the border were treated on the spot by Israeli medics and sent back.

On the front lines, opposition forces seizing control of at least part of the hilltop district of Aleppo in northern Syria, following heavy battles.

There were conflicting reports about the scale of the advance into the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood by rebel forces battling to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the gains marked the biggest shift in the front lines in the embattled city in months.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a former commercial hub, has been a key battleground in the country’s civil war since rebels launched an offensive there in July, seizing several districts before the fighting largely settled into a bloody stalemate.

The Aleppo Media Center opposition group and Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed said rebels seized full control of Sheikh Maqsoud late Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, said rebels took only the eastern part of the neighborhood, and reported heavy fighting there Saturday.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said government troops “eliminated scores of terrorists” in other parts of Aleppo mainly in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Said, Masaken Hanano and Bustan al-Bacha. SANA did not mention the fighting in Sheikh Maqsoud.

Sheikh Maqsoud, which is predominantly inhabited by minority Kurds, is located on a hill on the northern edge of the city. The neighborhood used to be known as “Our Lady’s Mountain” and is considered one of the most strategic locations in the city because it overlooks much of Aleppo.

Activists predicted that regime forces would launch counterattacks to try to retake the area because if rebels keep holding Sheikh Maqsoud it will be easy for them to target regime-held areas with mortar shells.

The media center and the Observatory both reported that residents were fleeing the neighborhood to safer areas. The media center said regime tanks around the neighborhood were shelling the area.

The Observatory also said rebels were fighting a fierce battle around an army post known as the Camp in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which borders Iraq.

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