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Violence hits Druze village Hader in Syria's Quneitra

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 03/11/2017
Druze in Golan Heights have been caught up in violence across the border [Baz Ratner/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Druze in Golan Heights have been caught up in violence across the border [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Israeli security forces say they are "prepared and ready" to prevent the capture of a village in Syria's Quneitra province caught up in clashes between President Bashar al-Assad's troops and rebels.

Violence erupted in Hader, in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights area that borders Israel, after a suicide attack at dawn on Friday killed at least nine people and injured more than 20 others

Hader is home to the Druze community, a minority religious sect found in Syria, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

Fighting broke out between Syrian government troops and rebels in Hader following the blast, leaving a Druze injured in the village of Majdal Shams on the Israeli-occupied side.

SANA, the official Syrian news agency, said the incident involved a Jabhat al-Nusra suicide bomber detonating a car bomb among houses on the outskirts of Hader, leaving nine people dead and 23 injured.

It said the death toll was likely to rise as most of the wounded sustained serious injuries and had to be pulled out of the debris with difficulty in the face of gunfire and shelling by rebel fighters.

Warning to Druze

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from West Jerusalem, said: "This attack has been claimed by Tahrir al-Shams, better known by its former name Jabhat al-Nura.

"It says it was to tryng to end the blockade of villages in its continuing fight against Assad regime forces, saying it didn't intend to harm the property or people of the village. But it warned those Druze villagers against fighting on the side of President Assad.

"There has been a call from the spiritual leader of the Druze in Israel for all Druze men, including soldiers serving in the Israeli army, to leave their posts and go and defend their brethren.

"There was also a demonstration of about 150 people from this Druze village in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights along the border fence.

"Because of this, we had this rather unusual statement from the Israeli military [IDF], raising the possibility of some kind of direct Israeli on-the-ground military involvement in Syria.

"The statement says the Israeli military is prepared and ready to help the village and prevent or occupation of the village."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Britain-based monitoring network, said clashes were occurring between "the rebel and Islamic factions against the regime forces and gunmen loyal to them" in areas adjoining Hader.

It said that in addition to exchange of fire and shelling, there was a big explosion caused by the detonation of a booby-trapped vehicle by one of the rebel factions at the entrance to Hader.

The SOHR said government troops and loyalists were among the casualties of Friday's clashes.

'Terrorist attack'

SANA said people in the Golan Heights took to the streets in protest against what it called Israeli support for "the terrorist attack launched by Jabhat al-Nusra" on Hader.

"Hundreds of Syrians demonstrated inside the occupied territories off the town of Hadar, which has been subjected, since the dawn, to a violent terrorist attack launched by Jabhat al-Nusra and backed by the Israeli occupation entity from al-Tuloul al-Homr area that is adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories," SANA reported quoting "local sources in the Occupied Golan".

According to the "local sources", the demonstrators tried to cross the ceasefire line to support the families of Hader "in confronting the terrorist attacks amid reinforcements of the enemy's soldiers to prevent them from advancing".

The SANA report said that Israeli forces closed all the roads from occupied Palestinian territories to prevent the arrival of hundreds of Arab citizens in the Golan Heights to support the people in Hader.

Responding to some allegations by Druze that Israel is assisting Tahrir al-Sham, the Israeli military said "the allegations of Israeli involvement and assistance to global jihadi elements in the fighting are groundless".

Separately, the Israeli military said on Friday it had destroyed a drone operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah over the Golan Heights.

"According to IDF intelligence, the Iranian-made UAV was operated by Hezbollah, and took off from Damascus Military Airport. ... The UAV was shot down by a single Patriot missile ..."

Hezbollah fighters have been fighting alongside Assad government forces against rebel groups operating in the area.

The group did not comment on the Israeli military claim.

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