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Israel says rebels take Syrian frontier villages

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published November 14, 2012 at 8:32 a.m. Updated November 14, 2012 at 9:58 a.m.

— Syrian rebels have taken control of nearly all villages near the frontier with the Israel-held Golan Heights, according to Israel’s defense minister, who said Wednesday that Bashar Assad’s forces were “displaying ever-diminishing efficiency.”

Fighting in the area this past week has already drawn Israeli retaliatory fire into Syria twice after apparently stray mortar shells flew into Israel-held territory. That raised fears that Syria’s civil war could take a new and even more dangerous twist, widening further into an armed conflict with the region’s strongest military power.

“Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday during a tour of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed. “The Syrian army is displaying ever-diminishing efficiency.”

Barak said Israel will remain “vigilant and alert.”

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