Reuters reports: Atop the hill of Tel Ahmar just a few kilometers from Israeli forces on the Golan Heights, Syrian Islamist fighters hoist the al Qaeda flag and praise their mentor Osama bin Laden.
One of the men, a leader of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, compares their battlefield – a lush agricultural region where dead soldiers lie on the ground near a charred Soviet-era tank – with the struggle their comrades waged years ago in Afghanistan.
“This view reminds us of the lion of the mujahideen, Osama bin Laden, on the mountains of Tora Bora,” he can be heard saying in a video posted by the group, which shows the fighters in sight of Israeli jeeps patrolling the fortified frontier.
Last month’s capture of the post was followed days later by the seizure of the Syrian army’s 61 Infantry Brigade base near the town of Nawa, one of the biggest rebel gains in the south during the three years of Syria’s war.
The advances are important not just because they expand rebel control close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Jordanian border, but because President Bashar al-Assad’s power base in Damascus lies just 40 miles to the north. [Continue reading…]