June 6, 2013
The Free Syrian Army launched an attack on a regime-held border crossing with Israel early Thursday morning on the heels of its defeat in the strategic city of Al-Qusayr in Homs province the day before. The rebels held the post for a few hours until the regime forces launched a large-scale ground attack that resulted in massive destruction to farms and property in the surrounding areas. Musa Abu Sakher, formerly a colonel in an elite Syrian army unit and currently an FSA commander in Quneitra province, tells Ahmed Kwider what happened.
Q: What are the details of the battle in Golan today?
A: Around 5 am the FSA attacked the village of al-Kahtanyah and the (Liberated) Destroyed Quneitra from 2 fronts; the first is the highway between Damascus and Quneitra and the second is from al-Hamidiayh area in Khan Arnabeh. The bordering village of al-Kahtanyah was captured within an hour. After the FSA controlled the border crossing between Israel and Syria, the regime army started to bomb us and the neighboring villages, al-Hamidiayh, al-Samdanyah, Rowayhaniyah and Um al-Ezam. The bombing came from the artillery battalion in Tal a-Shaar and Tal a-Sakri. As a result of that random bombardment, fires spread through farms prior to the harvest season. Part of these fires has been put out by citizens who used primitive methods, and the largest part continues to burn.
The Air Force didn’t participate in military operations, but once the FSA captured the crossing point, regime reinforcement made of 4 tank forces and tens of shabiha and National Army buses, 6 BMPs and vehicles mounted by DShK machine guns arrived to the battle area. They were based in the provice square, in front of the crossing point, and then the first tank force, covered by artillery shelling that shock the entire area, approached. After an hour of clashing, the FSA had to withdraw and lose the crossing point. Clashes continue up till now in an attack-and-retreat form.
Some shells landed on the Israeli side of the border, resulting in fires in the separating area between the occupied Golan and the border crossing. Fire engines quickly arrived to put out the fires, and the Israeli didn’t respond. They have changed their policies on the borders, however, so they keep sending patrols watching the border closely.
One of the peacekeepers in the area was injured in the clashes with a shell splinter. He was transferred to the emergency center in Nabea al-Fawar.
Q: What are the conditions of civilians in al-Kahtanyah area under bombardment?
A: There are 500 people in the village of al-Kahtanyah. They are the families who remained in the area. We don’t know anything about them. “Their destiny is unknown to me.” Electricity and communications have been cut off in the entire Quneitra. The regime bombed the water containers that supply the areas where al-Samdanyah village is located. There are no bakeries except in al-Baath city dominated by regime forces. Most of its residents are state employees and people who work for the regime. The central bakery of the province is working too, but no one can go out to get bread or food due to the clashes and the bombardment that begin in the early morning.