Syrian tanks lay siege to key rebel-held town athwart Damascus-Golan highway

Two Syrian armored brigades set out from Damascus Monday night, Oct. 7, to link up with forces already fighting in southern Syria to reach Quneitra opposite the Israeli Golan border. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report long convoys of around 200 tanks, APCs, armored vehicles and self-propelled artillery are heading for an assembly-point south of the Daraa in the south.

Large Syrian forces tightened their siege through Tuesday night, Oct. 8, on the rebel-held town of Khan Arnabeh which is the key to controlling the main highway from the capital, Damascus Syrian Golan.The town is expected to fall within a short time. Its capture also provides the key to the central crossroads around the Golan town of Quneitra and will enable the Syria army to return to its former positions along the disengagement zone dividing the enclave between Syria and Israel, which is patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

The Syrian army is saturating Khan Arnabeh with concentrated fire from tanks, aircraft and self-propelled artillery. debkafile’s military sources report that rebel resistance is light – and not only on the Golan. Western military sources report that the rebels are fighting half-heartedly in other battle sectors across Syria with little spirit to do more than hold their ground.

During the day, as the battles came closer to the Israeli border, the IDF ordered the crews working on the Golan security fence to leave the area for their own safety.

debkafile reported Monday nigh that the Syrian air force bombarded rebel-held border villages to soften them up ahead of the offensive.

The size and movements of the advancing Syrian forces indicate that the regime in Damascus has determined to root out the rebel presence in all parts of Syrian border with Israel – from the Hermon Mts. in the north, down to the Syrian-Israel-Jordanian border junction opposite the southern Israeli Golan.

The main body is presently on the move in the area between the Yarmuk River which marks the Syrian Jordanian border and Quneitra. 
The Syrian rebel forces clinging to small locations along the Israeli border are small and not expected to last long under a sizeable Syria military assault, one of whose objectives is undoubtedly to sever the links between rebel positions on the Golan and the IDF.

The only outward sign of those links is the regular transfer of injured rebels to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment – an estimated 200 have so far been treated.
Until now, the Syrian high command held back from a military operation in this region for fear of drawing forth an Israeli or Jordanian counter-attack. However, after consenting to the disabling of its chemical weapons, the Assad regime feels confident that neither Israel nor Jordan will dare fight back.

Syrian leaders gained an even greater sense of immunity from the rare words they head from US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday, commending them for allowing UN experts to dismantle the chemical production equipment and stocks, even though it suddenly turned out Sunday, Oct. 6 that the international OPCW experts had relegated the work to the Syrian army.

Jordan has responded to the heavy Syrian military movements in close proximity to its territory by putting on a state of preparedness the two army divisions, Nos. 60 and 40, which stand guard on its border with Syria.

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