The Israeli military on Monday declared a border-adjacent area in the Golan Heights temporarily off-limits to civilians, following a series of incidents in which errant Syrian fire hit Israeli territory.
The army said several “crowd gathering points” in the Quneitra area would be closed off until further notice. Farmers will be allowed in to work in their fields, though they will also be barred from coming near the border fence itself.
In the past three days there have been three incidents of errant fire hitting Israel. The IDF has responded with force, targeting Syrian army installations, which Israel holds responsible for all incidents originating from Syrian soil.
Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman said Monday that Israel has “no intention of launching a military operation” against Syria or rebel groups operating within it even as tensions have spiraled in recent days.
Speaking at the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs committee, Liberman rejected predictions made by some in Israel’s political echelon that the next conflict with either Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south is just around the corner.
“If you read the newspapers it seems that we have many prophets predicting a hot summer,” the defense minister said. “Let me be clear once again: We have no intention of initiating a military operation, neither in the north nor in the south.”
But Liberman said that despite the military establishment’s hope for calm on Israel’s borders, it will not tolerate any provocations, even accidental fire that spills over from a neighboring conflict.
“We won’t hold back if necessary and when needed we will respond with all our might,” he said, adding that Israel will not allow Syria to become a base for attacks against Israel.
Around 10 mortar shells from Syria struck the Golan Heights on Saturday, prompting an Israeli response that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers.
On Sunday, several more projectiles hit Israel in what the army said was spillover fire from fighting between regime forces and rebels. The IDF again responded, confirming it targeted a Syrian military vehicle. Arabic media reports said five people were injured in the Israeli raid.
Earlier Monday the IDF said that stray fire from Syria reportedly hit a United Nations peacekeeping position in the Golan Heights. No injuries were reported. The army launched searches following reports that two mortars had landed on the Israeli side of the frontier, but no signs of shelling were found. Instead, “heavy machine gun bullet holes were identified in a UNDOF post near Zivanit, adjacent to the border,” the army said.
The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force monitors a 1974 ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights.
Syria responded Sunday to Israel’s strikes with its own warnings
“The general staff of the Syrian army warns of the dangers of these aggressive actions and holds the Israeli enemy responsible for the grave consequences of these repeated actions, despite any excuse there may be,” the Ynet news site quoted the Syrian military as saying.