Heavy fighting between Syrian army forces and al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front militants has broken out on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as the Damascus government makes major advances against foreign-backed gunmen, Press TV reports.
The Thursday fighting came as Syrian troops have been battling al-Nusra Front militants in the area since the terrorists seized control of the UN-operated crossing last week in the strategic southwestern city of Quneitra, situated some 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Damascus, and took 45 Fijian peacekeepers hostage.
Elsewhere in Syria, at least 18 ISIL Takfiri militants were killed as Syrian troops carried out a military operation in the village of Ghareebeh in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the militants slain in the attack were non-Syrians, including an American.
On Thursday, Syrian troops also killed and wounded scores of militants during heavy clashes on the outskirts of Quneitra as foreign-backed gunmen sought to infiltrate and take over the area.
“Militants are trying to take control of strategic locations in Tal Mashara and Sha’ar hills. This is not the first time they attack. They are trying so hard, because if they reach the hills, they would control the Quneitra countryside. But, all their attacks were foiled,” a Syrian army officer, requesting anonymity, told Press TV.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011 with ISIL Takfiri terrorists currently controlling parts of it mostly in the east.
The Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — are reportedly supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
More than 191,000 people have been killed in over three years of fighting in the war-ravaged country, says the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), calling the figure a probable “underestimate of the real total number of people killed.”