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New Jihadi Threat Has Israel's North Border on Alert

09-10-2014
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GOLAN HEIGHTS, Israel -- Less than a month after a ceasefire with Hamas took effect, Israel faces another threat on its northern border.

In late August, the al Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra scored big gains against the Syrian army of President Bashar al-Assad. The fighting took place on Israel's northern doorstep.

On an observation point overlooking the Israeli-Syrian border, CBN News heard explosions in the background and saw plumes of smoke, presumably coming from the fighting between al-Nusra and the Assad regime's forces.

One of the most important victories al-Nusra has won recently is taking over the strategic Quneitra Crossing about a mile from the border. For years this crossing has served as the only portal between Israel and Syria.

"Look at this! There's a big mushroom there now. You see it," Arik Golandsky told CBN News. "So the war is going on over there all the time, and today is a quiet day."

Golandsky manages a restaurant in Kibbutz Mermom Golan, close to the border, with lodging, horses, and guest houses. Now there's a new terrorist neighbor.

"Al-Nusra controls now 80 percent of the whole region of Quneitra," Golandsky said. "It's not just here, but it's also the city, the village. Like 80 percent is already controlled by al-Nusra and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad wants to take it back. We're not that far from Damascus."

The Golan Heights sit along Israel's northern border with Syria. Israel won the land in the 1967 Six-Day War. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israeli forces defeated a huge Syrian tank force that overran the area.

For the past 40 years, it's been Israel's quietest border. Now, U.N. observers monitor the fighting from the Syrian side of the border, where al-Nusra recently captured 44 Filipino peacekeepers.

Golandsky said ISIS is not far behind al-Nusra on Israel's border.

"They [ISIS] are more to the south of the Golan and most of them are before Syria and Lebanon [and] not on this border so far. Again, it can change," he said.

Despite the nearby fighting, life for Israelis in the Golan Heights goes on. Lilach Ashtar serves as a community liaison with the IDF.

"We live a very peaceful life, but we know that a few kilometers away there is a war," Ashtar told CBN News. "But as I said, in the history of Israel, it doesn't matter where you are, it's there. We are not in the most safest neighborhood."

"It means we have to be alert. We have to be aware," Golandsky said. "But it's now happening all over the world, okay. It's a more global problem than specifically a small problem here on the border because Israel will be ready. The border will be ready. The question is will the whole world be ready for the Islam[ist] movement."

Being ready is why two U.S. pastors told CBN News they brought their tour group to the northern border.

"Just to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, to pray for the nation of Israel and that we need to support them and to stand with them and give them all the moral support that we can," Pastor John Miller, with Revival Christian Fellowship, said.

Pastor Gerry Brown, with Calvary Chapel Romoland, said jihadists so close to Israel's northern border are a concern for everyone.

"The proximity of that push so close to the border of Israel is a concern for all of us," he said, "certainly for the people here of Israel and the land of Israel, but all of the world because of the radical Islamic position and mindset is one that we all have to be concerned about."

Israel literally sits on the front lines, but as the memory of 9/11 reminds us, radical Islam knows no boundaries.

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