Syrian troops score another victory

Syrian troops score  another victory

After Qusayr, they retake Golan Crossing from rebels Quneitra Crossing (AFP): Syria's army have recaptured the only Golan Heights crossing on the...

After Qusayr, they retake Golan Crossing from rebels

Quneitra Crossing (AFP): Syria's army have recaptured the only Golan Heights crossing on the ceasefire line with Israel, in another setback for rebels a day after they were forced out of the strategic town of Qusayr.

Austria, meanwhile, on Thursday said that it was withdrawing its troops from a UN peacekeeping force on the Golan because of the deteriorating security. Qusayr's capture gives President Bashar al-Assad the upper hand if a US-Russian plan for the first direct peace talks with his opponents materialises, analysts say.


Russia said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem would lead a government delegation at the "Geneva 2" talks which have been delayed largely over opposition disputes about who will attend. The rebels briefly took control of the Quneitra crossing, strategically and symbolically important for its proximity to Israeli forces and to Damascus, before being forced out.

An AFP correspondent said that he could see tanks inside the area after Assad's troops moved back in yesterday. Both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Israeli army radio said the rebel advance had included fierce fighting in nearby Quneitra town. The clashes were very close to the headquarters of a UN peacekeeping force, prompting Austria to announce it was withdrawing its troops and throwing the mission into disarray.

Two peacekeepers, from India and the Philippines, suffered "minor injuries" in shelling, a UN peacekeeping spokesperson said. In Vienna, the government said the threat to Austrian soldiers reached an unacceptable level.The Quneitra crossing, the only direct passage between Israel and Syria, is used almost exclusively by Druze residents of the Golan who are allowed to cross to study, work or get married.

UN Golan force in crisis United Nations (AFP): The UN force in Golan Heights was thrown into disarray after Austria withdrew its troops and two peacekeepers were injured as Syrian government and rebel fighters battled for a border crossing. Peacekeepers from the Philippines and India were wounded by mortar shrapnel as the two sides fought for the strategic crossing, according to diplomats.

UN leaders held emergency talks to replace the 377 Austrian troops who make up more than a third of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has monitored a ceasefire between Israel and Syria since 1974. Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger called UN chief Ban Ki-moon to tell him of the withdrawal, said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

UN seeks over $5 bn for Syria

Berlin (AP): The United Nations launched its biggest humanitarian appeal ever today to help millions of Syrians suffering the effects of a conflict that has dragged on for more than two years with no end in sight. UN aid agencies and independent relief organizations need $5.2 billion to fund their operations in Syria and neighboring countries until the end of the year, the global body said.

The figure presented at an international conference in Geneva represents a sharp increase from the $3 billion the global body had previously estimated it would need this year, of which only $1.4 billion has so far been pledged.

"The situation has deteriorated drastically," said Valerie Amos, the UN's top humanitarian official, according to a draft copy of her speech to diplomats at the conference. "The crisis has intensified and spread into most parts of Syria."

Late last year the UN estimated that 4 million people needed aid inside Syria, a figure that has now grown to nearly 7 million. Meanwhile, the flood of refugees to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt has swelled to over 1.5 million. Syria's pre-war population was estimated at about 22 million.

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