Fearing Syrian border tensions could snowball, army shuts Mount Hermon ski site

Move comes as Israel bombs Iranian positions in Syria following intercepted missile attack near mountain a day earlier

Israelis ski and snowboard on Mount Hermon on January 11, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Israelis ski and snowboard on Mount Hermon on January 11, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The Israeli army said it would not allow visitors onto the popular Mount Hermon ski resort in the northern Golan Heights Monday, amid concerns a cross-border conflagration could intensify.

The move came a day after Israel’s Iron Diome air defense system intercepted a Syrian surface to surface missile shot at Israel, while skiers slalomed down the slopes of the mountain nearby.

“Given the situation, it has been decided that the Hermon site will not open to visitors Monday,” the army said in a statement early Monday morning.

It said there were no other special instruction for those in the Golan Heights and that normalcy should be maintained.

The announcement was made minutes after the army made a rare announcement that it was attacking targets belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force in Syria.

The military typically only announces retaliatory measures, signaling that the air strike was likely in response to the missile fired earlier in the day, which came after a rare daytime attack on Iranian targets near Damascus, widely attributed to Israel.

The closure of the site likely signaled that Israel feared more attacks from Syria, seen as likely directed by Iran, were possible.

Mount Hermon straddles the borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon, towering over the Golan Heights with a peak of 2,814 meters (9,232 feet). The Israeli side of the mountain tops out at 2,200 meters (6,500 feet), still making it the largest in the country.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the Golan Heights shows snow covered mountain inside Syria on January 20, 2019. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israel’s only ski resort is on the mountain’s southern slopes some 2,000 meters up (6,500 feet), and is a popular tourist destination.

On Sunday, the site was packed with visitors following fresh snowfall in the area. Authorities opted not to close the site following the missile launch, which was intercepted outside of Israeli territory and caused no casualties or damage.

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