Refugees and wounded flee Syria into Lebanon’s Shebaa

Syrian refugee children queue as they wait to receive aid from humanitarian agencies. (Reuters)

Syrian refugees used donkeys to flee fighting near the Golan Heights and cross rugged snow-capped terrain into Lebanon.

A rebel brigade claimed on Thursday to have overrun several small towns near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past 24 hours, fuelling tensions in the sensitive military zone.

On Thursday several men, some riding donkeys, arrived in a village in the Shebaa Farms.
One man said he had been traveling for at least three hours, because his home was being bombarded.

“To be honest we don't know where it is coming from, all we know that the houses are being bombarded,” he said.

Some of the men were injured and were taken away in ambulances.

The media office of the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” rebel brigade said they planned to take more towns and had been attacking government positions because the army had been shelling civilians.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the conflict in Syria, said rebels had taken several towns near the Golan plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed.

Witnesses said at least 150 Syrians had fled the fighting and crossed the border into Lebanon's Shebaa region, just north of the Golan.

The Observatory said that on Wednesday night rebels had captured Khan Arnabeh, which sits on the Israeli-Syrian disengagement line and straddles a main road leading into Israeli-held territory.
Rebels also took Mashati al-Khadar and Seritan Lahawan, two villages near the ceasefire line, it said.

U.N. peacekeepers monitoring the line halted patrols this month after rebels held 21 Filipino observers for three days.

The armed struggle between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has posed increasing difficulties for the 1,000-strong U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
There is growing concern in Israel that Islamist rebels may be emboldened to end the quiet maintained by Assad and his father before him on the Golan front since 1974.

Rebel sources say the Syrian army intensified shelling of villages in the area of Saham al-Golan at dawn on Thursday.

They said rebels in the Quneitra region, next to the Golan, were stepping up attacks on roadblocks to gain more territory but added that the strategic town of Quneitra - which was largely destroyed and abandoned during Israeli-Syrian clashes in 1974 - was still in Syrian government hands

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Last Update: Friday, 22 March 2013 KSA 16:32 - GMT 13:32
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