Armed Syrians, one of whom IDF shot dead on border, weren’t combatants — military

Second man fled back to Syria; initial military probe finds pair were likely hunters, not seeking to carry out attack

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Israeli soldiers patrol the border fence with Syria, in southern Golan Heights, on January 29, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers patrol the border fence with Syria, in southern Golan Heights, on January 29, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday said two armed Syrians who approached the Israeli border in the southern Golan Heights the previous day — one of whom was shot dead by troops — were not combatants.

According to the IDF’s initial probe, the pair were likely hunters, and were not attempting to perpetrate an attack on the border.

According to the IDF, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras on Sunday morning spotted the two armed men crossing the so-called Alpha Line — a UN buffer zone separating Israel from Syria — and approaching Israel’s security fence.

“IDF troops dispatched to the scene acted to prevent the suspects from crossing the fence and opened fire according to standard operating procedures,” the IDF said.

One of the suspects was treated by military medics at the scene but later was declared dead. The second man fled back to Syria, the IDF said. It was unclear if he had also been hit by the gunfire.

“An initial inquiry indicates that it is unlikely that this was terrorist activity,” the IDF said, adding that it was being investigated further.

No Israeli soldiers were injured in the incident.

The unit involved in the incident was the controversial Netzah Yehuda battalion, part of the Kfir Brigade. The battalion had been moved from its deployment in West Bank to the Syrian border earlier this month, for the first time.

A few weeks ago, the IDF said troops detained five suspects who crossed into Israeli territory from Syria.

In December, two similar incidents occurred.

Though Jerusalem and Damascus remain in a state of war, Syrians wounded in the country’s bloody civil conflict who make it to the border have been provided medical treatment by the Jewish state.

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