Israeli defense minister: 'Almost all' Syrian border villages near Israel controlled by rebels.
Pictured: Associated Press/Narciso Contreras - In this Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 photo, Syrian residents walk on a main road in the Tarik Al-Bab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
Nearly all of the Syrian villages along the border with Israel are in rebel hands, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday, during a tour of the Golan Heights region with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Daily Telegraph reported late on Tuesday that Syrian rebels have seized control over two towns in the buffer zone with Israel.
According to the report, which cites an Israeli military intelligence source from the Northern Command, 200 or more rebels took control of Be'er Ajam and Bariqa.
The Syrian military is becoming less efficient, Barak said.
Barak praised the IDF and said it was closely monitoring "the painful crumbling of the Assad regime."
He added that the IDF's northern Command is ensuring that Syrian fire isn't directed over the border into Israel, "while making more wide-scale preparations for all developments."
"It's very difficult to estimate what will be in Syria in the future, and we need to be alert and ready here, like in other areas," the defense minister said.
The prime minister added that "We are determined to defend our land and our borders. We made that clear to the other side."
Earlier in the month, the Syrian military caused a stir when three of its tanks entered Be'er Ajam, prompting Israel to raise its alert levels and complain to the United Nations.
"The rebels are employing a clear tactic of drawing the regime forces to fight in these demilitarized areas because of the limitations on the Syrian armed forces," the Telegraph quoted the Israeli source as saying. "Rebels have seized control of the area north of Quneitra and the area to its south. If they are brave they will try to make a swift move to cut off Quneitra city and cut off the road to Damascus. We cannot rule that out as a next step."
SOURCE: The Associated Press