A suicide car bomb attack killed nine people in a government-held village in Syria’s Golan Heights on Friday, state media said, reporting clashes between government forces and militants afterward.
State news agency SANA said the car bomb hit the outskirts of the village of Hader, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel.
“A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the village, located on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23,” the agency said.
Al-Nusra Front is the old name for a militant group that was formerly Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defence units [pro-government militants] clashed with the attackers,” SANA added.
The agency said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to a safe place.
Hader is a majority-Druze village and has been attacked in the past by rebel and militant groups.
It lies in southwestern Syria’s Quneitra province, around 70 per cent of which is held by either rebel or militant groups, with the government controlling the other 30pc, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.
The Israeli army said on Friday that a civilian in the town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan was lightly wounded as a result of “shots fired from Syria”.
It said the shots were “stray fire resulting from the intense fighting on the Syrian Golan Heights”.
Israeli army spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, said the military was ready to “prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied, as part of our commitment to the Druze population”.
Nearly 140,000 members of the Druze minority, which follows a secretive offshoot of Shia sect, live in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan.
In Majdal Shams, residents approached the disengagement line but were prevented from crossing to support villagers in Hader by the Israeli army, which closed off the area.
Some Syrian Druze have expressed sympathy for the opposition since the start of the civil war but the community has largely been loyal to the regime.
Russia accuses US of blocking humanitarian aid in Syria
Russia on Friday accused the United States of committing a “war crime” in Syria, saying its army had denied Syrian refugees access to humanitarian aid.
“The most severe humanitarian situation remains in the Al-Tanf region,” the Russian defence ministry’s Syria reconciliation centre said, referring to a garrison where US and other foreign troops train anti-Islamic State group fighters.
Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees from the Al-Rukban refugee camp on the Jordanian border are deprived of humanitarian aid because of the United States, which “illegally placed their military base there and forbids approach within 55 kilometres under the threat of death,” the centre said.
“The actions of the US military and the so-called international coalition in Al-Tanf are a gross violation of the international humanitarian law and could qualify as a war crime,” it said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.
Earlier this month Moscow accused the US of supporting IS militants and enabling them to mount counter-offensive attacks in eastern Syria from near the Al-Tanf garrison.
Al-Tanf, on the key highway connecting Damascus with Baghdad, has been repeatedly menaced by a surge of Iran-backed troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Washington says the garrison is used by US and British special forces to train rebel Syrian groups fighting IS militants.
Russia has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 when it stepped in to support the Assad regime and tipped the conflict in his favour.