Syrian, Iranian-Backed Forces Advance in Border Area near Israel

(Reuters) Suleiman Al-Khalidi - Syrian army forces backed by Iranian-backed militias pushed deeper into the last rebel-held enclave near a strategic border area with Israel and Lebanon in a new expansion of Tehran's influence. The forces advanced east and south of the Sunni-rebel-held bastion of Beit Jin, southwest of Damascus in the foothills of Mount Hermon, backed by heavy aerial bombing and artillery shelling. A Western intelligence source confirmed that Iranian-backed militias including Hizbullah were playing a major role in the ongoing battles. Diplomatic sources say several thousand Shi'ite fighters are pitted against hundreds of Islamist and mainstream Free Syria Army (FSA) rebels, mainly drawn from local fighters, who have closed ranks under the banner of "Union of Fighters of Jabal al Sheikh." The rebels have called on youths to enlist as mosque imams in Beit Jin called on people to take up arms and fight the army.

2017-12-25 00:00:00

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