A civilian Israeli vehicle directly hit on the border with Syria Sunday may have been targeted by a heat-guided missile recently introduced to the battlefield by regime troops, a rebel officer told The Times of Israel on Sunday.
Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Karkara from the town of Arabbeh was killed, and his father, a civilian contractor, seriously injured when their vehicle exploded while delivering water to workers constructing a border fence on the Golan Heights.
A hole discovered in the fence has led the IDF to believe the vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile launched from the Syrian side of the border, Israeli news site Walla reported.
The rebel officer, a commander in the Free Syrian Army, said he was at the village of Bariqa, just south of where the incident happened, at approximately 11:30 a.m. No clashes between government and opposition forces were taking place at the time, he said.
“We heard a launch near the area of Qahtaniyah, but that’s normal; they bombard us all the time,” he said, speaking from the southern city of Daraa. He spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity.
The Assad army controls the territory immediately east of the village of Rwihinah, across the border from where the Israeli car was hit, with an infantry company and mortar company. The Free Syrian Army controls the area west of the village, adjacent to the border with Israel, deploying observation positions and patrols along the border road.
“Over the past 20 days the [Assad army] has used heat-guided missiles, directly hitting two of our vehicles at the entrance to Bariqa. One car was hit last week and another the week before,” the officer said.
Before the introduction of the new weapon to the battlefield, the regime would target opposition vehicles with machine-gun rounds, the officer said.
“During the day we drive next to the border fence on dirt roads with our four-wheel drive vehicles. At night, we shut the headlights and drive on paved roads [further inside Syrian territory],” the officer said.
“Sometimes, if they [the Assad fighters] spot our cars moving, they fire at them immediately. It’s possible that a car on the other side of the border was targeted,” he said.
A number of Syrian opposition members including senior officers in the Free Syrian Army contacted The Times of Israel in the hours following the attack, asserting that opposition fighters had strict orders forbidding any cross-border attacks into Israel.
One opposition activist, however, doubted that the Assad regime would trust its soldiers with advanced anti-tank weaponry for fear that such weapons would be sold to opposition forces or captured by defecting soldiers.
“I attribute this attack to Hezbollah and Iranian militias present in the south [of Syria],” the activist said. “Only they would use such weapons and methods.”
The Israel-Syria border region has seen intermittent exchanges of fire throughout the war in Syria. Although Israel has largely attributed these incidents to stray fire from clashes in Syria, there have been attempts to target Israeli soldiers.
In March, four IDF soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb outside the Druze town of Majdal Shams after the soldiers apparently spotted a suspicious person near the border fence and approached to investigate. The IDF suspected that attack was perpetrated by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which gained a foothold on the Syrian side of the Golan after it came to Assad’s aid in his fight against opposition forces seeking his ouster.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.