An Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia Sunday afternoon, amid spiraling tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli aircraft struck a truck driving near the town of Khan Arnabeh in the Quneitra province, on the road to Damascus.
The National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia set up in 2012, claimed the man killed was from among its ranks.
It named the man as Yasser Hussien Assayed.
“The national defense force mourns with pride and sorrow the news of the martyrdom of the heroic fighter Yasser Hussien Assayed,” the group said in a Facebook post.
The group, reportedly set up with the help of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, published four pictures it said were from the scene of the alleged airstrike.
#خاص #اعلام_الدفاع_الوطني صور حصريه لسيارة الشهيد "ياسر حسين السيد" من مرتبات #الدفاع_الوطني #فوج_الجولان الذي استشهد ع…
The group said an Israeli drone carried out the strike.
The Lebanese news channel NBN reported that the man killed was a Syrian air defense commander. Other reports said Assayed was a civilian.
— Putintin (@putintintin1) March 19, 2017
The Palestinian daily al Quds earlier on Sunday cited Syrian sources who said the Syrian army had targeted an Israeli drone in Quneitra, causing the drone to retreat.
The IDF refused to confirm or deny the reports.
The reported strike came hours after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems, after Israeli aircraft were targeted during a bombing run early Friday morning.
“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman said on Israel Radio.
Early Friday morning, Israeli jets hit an arms transfer meant for Hezbollah near Palmyra, with Syrian air defenses firing missiles at the planes.
An Israeli army statement said “several anti-aircraft missiles” were fired following the raid, but that none hit their targets, dismissing a Syrian claim that one plane was downed and another damaged.
One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense battery, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system.
It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.
Israeli officials have warned of the possibility Hezbollah and Iran could attempt to set up a base to attack Israel near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.
“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Liberman said Sunday.
“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hezbollah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do.”
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, where he asked the Kremlin to make sure Iran does not gain a foothold in the area.
In 2015, a reported Israeli airstrike near Quneitra killed Hezbollah commander Jihad Mughniyeh, amid claims that he had been setting up a base from which to shoot rockets at Israel.
AFP contributed to this report.