Hezbollah forces advance to edge of Syria Golan Heights
BEIRUT - Lebanon's Hezbollah, Syrian regime forces and Iranian officers fighting rebels in southern Syria have advanced to the edge of Israeli-occupied territory, a monitor and state media said Wednesday.
"Regime troops and their Hezbollah-led allies are advancing in the area linking Daraa, Quneitra and Damascus provinces," close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
For the first time, Syrian state television acknowledged that President Bashar al-Assad's army is being backed by Hezbollah and Iranian officers in its fight against a nearly four-year rebellion.
"The operation launched by the Syrian army is being fought in cooperation with... Hezbollah and Iran," a Syrian army officer told state television.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said: "It's Hezbollah that is leading the attack on the southern front."
On January 18, six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general were killed in an Israeli air strike in Quneitra.
According to the Observatory, which estimates 5,000 Hezbollah fighters are deployed in Syria, pro-regime forces on Tuesday seized "the strategic position of Deir al-Adas and surrounding hills".'
It said the battle for Deir al-Adas, which had been out of regime control since January last year, killed 20 rebels.
The latest reports come four days after the Lebanese militant group and the Syrian army launched an offensive to reclaim swathes of territory held by the rebels in the south.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel broadcast live images Wednesday from Deir al-Adas with fighting clearly audible in the background.
And Syria's state SANA news agency reported "advances as part of a vast operation by the army and armed groups".
The assault near the armistice line on the Golan is aimed at "breaking the stretch of territory that they (rebels) are trying to establish" at the border, a Syrian security source said.
Syrian rebels and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front had in recent months made sweeping gains in the south of the country.
Daraa and Quneitra are located near Damascus, the border with Jordan as well as the Golan Heights.