The IDF said it conducted an airstrike late Wednesday night killing seven Islamic State fighters who had crossed the 1974 ceasefire line into Israeli territory.
The gunmen had made it some 200 meters (650 feet) past the “alpha line” but did not manage to reach the technical fence bordering the Israeli Golan Heights, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said, correcting an earlier army statement that said the “terror squad” had been in the Syrian Golan Heights when targeted.
A number of explosive belts and a Kalashnikov rifle were found during searches of the area Thursday morning, according to the army.
The gunmen had crossed into the Israeli territory through the Syria-Jordan-Israel border triangle.
According to Army Radio, the gunmen were en route to an attack on Israel.
The army later released a short clip showing the IS gunmen heading toward Israel and Israeli soldiers crossing into no-man’s land to search for them.
Meanwhile, Jordan also said Thursday that it killed a number of Islamic State jihadists who tried to approach its northern border with Syria.
That incident occurred on Tuesday, as clashes raged between Syrian regime forces and “a gang of Daesh (IS) terrorists” in the Yarmouk Basin region of southwestern Syria, a Jordanian army statement said.
IS jihadists “tried to approach our border” but Jordanian troops prevented them by pounding them “with all types of weapons” and “killing a number of them,” it added, without specifying how many.
The operation to secure the area continued into Wednesday, the statement said.
No threat to communities
The IDF’s Conricus said that there had been no threat to Israeli communities along the northern border, but he did not say whether the IS gunmen were intending to attack Israeli military targets.
The Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Thursday that Russian military police would be deploying along the border between Syria and Israel to prevent further escalation between the sides.
The air raid took place as the IDF was completing a large-scale drill of war scenarios testing the preparedness of the Northern Command and the General Staff.
While touring the drill, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the gains by Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war presented advantages for Israel even though the two countries remain technically at war.
“In Syria, as far as we are concerned, the situation is returning to the previous one before the civil war, meaning there is a clear address, there is responsibility and there is a central government,” Liberman told journalists while visiting Israeli air defenses.
Before the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel was largely quiet for years.
During the conflict, there has been occasional spillover fire to which Israel has responded.
Assad told his troops on Wednesday they were close to victory after inflicting a succession of defeats on rebels.
A series of blistering offensives backed by Moscow and Tehran has forced the rebels out of many of their strongholds, putting Assad’s government back in control of nearly two-thirds of the country.
Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syrian conflict but acknowledges carrying out dozens of airstrikes there to stop deliveries of advanced weaponry to its Lebanese enemy Hezbollah.
It has also pledged to prevent its Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and a series of recent strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria have been attributed to Israel.
“We do not interfere or intervene in Syria’s internal affairs,” Liberman said. “But this is provided that all three points that are important to us are fulfilled.”
He named them as a strict observance of a 1974 armistice with Syria, not allowing Iran to use Syria as a front against Israel, and not allowing Syria to be used as a transit point for advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.
The army stressed that the exercise had been planned in advance as part of its training program for 2018.
It came just a week after Israeli aircraft destroyed a rocket launcher belonging, according to the army, to the Islamic State after it fired a pair of projectiles that landed in the Sea of Galilee. The IDF said the rockets had been errant fire from internal Syrian fighting, but some analysts have argued that it was an intentional move by IS to lure Israel into a clash with the Syrian army.
A day prior, the IDF said it fired two Patriot missiles at Sukhoi-model jet that had traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace, shooting it down. The plane crashed inside Syria, killing its pilot. According to the IDF, the fighter jet took off from the Iran-linked T-4 air force base in central Syria, which Israel has bombed in the past, and traveled “at high speed” toward the Golan Heights.