Israeli defense chief: Rebels take Syrian villages

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JERUSALEM — The Israeli defense minister says “almost all” Syrian villages near the frontier with Israel have fallen into rebel hands.

Ehud Barak delivered his assessment Wednesday during a tour of the Israel-held Golan Heights.

Barak said: “Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels.”

He said the Syrian army is displaying “ever-diminishing efficiency.”

Earlier this week, Israel opened fire across the border after stray Syrian mortar shells flew into the Golan. Israel believes the mortar attack was spillover from the violence in Syria, and not aimed at Israel.

Bark says Israel will remain “vigilant and alert.”

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