Army targets rocket launcher that fired the projectiles

IDF shells southern Syria in response to errant rocket fire at Golan

Growing assessment among defense officials that rockets said to land in Sea of Galilee were Islamic State projectiles targeting Assad regime forces

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: Smoke rises at the Syrian side of the border, as it seen from the Golan Heights, Israel, on July 24, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Smoke rises at the Syrian side of the border, as it seen from the Golan Heights, Israel, on July 24, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Israeli aircrafts targeted southern Syria Wednesday evening in response to apparently errant fire from the country’s ongoing civil war that triggered sirens throughout the Golan Heights hours prior.

The army said it targeted the rocket launcher that fired two projectiles toward Israel, though it did not identify the party responsible.

“The IDF will act against any attempt to compromise Israeli sovereignty and the safety of its civilians,” the military said in a statement.

Hours earlier the Emek Hayarden Regional Council said two projectiles landed in the Sea of Galilee.

Police stated that they were unable to find any remnants of a rocket, missile or mortar after hours of searches in the area. The searches will resume Thursday at sunrise, police said.

The IDF had yet to confirm whether the source of projectiles it identified heading toward Israel originated from President Bashar Assad’s military or from rebel forces, but the growing assessment among defense officials was that Islamic State fighters were responsible for the rocket fire.

Eyewitnesses told Hadashot news that they saw the projectiles land in the water — one of them exploding, and the other not.

“We heard a whistling,” one local recalled. “And then a second whistling. And then we saw [one of the missiles] falling into the water, maybe 50 meters from the beach.”

Israeli forces search the Sea of Galilee coast for the remains of a drone launched from Syria and intercepted by a Patriot missile on July 11, 2018, near Kibbutz Ha-On, northeastern Israel. (AFP/Jalaa Marey)

The projectiles were believed to have been fired from the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights, where the Assad regime has been completing its campaign against the last rebel villages remaining in the area.

Incoming rocket sirens blared across the Israeli Golan Heights, sending residents of the area scrambling to bomb shelters.

The military said the system was triggered after it identified projectiles launched in the direction of Israel. No missile defense systems were fired, however. The IDF was investigating why the defense systems were not activated.

School vacation meant that the area surrounding Sea of Galilee was packed with tourists. There were no injuries reported.

The projectile fire came a day after the Israeli Air Force shot down a Syrian fighter jet that traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace.

“Two Patriot missiles were fired at a Syrian Sukhoi-model fighter jet,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The IDF said the aircraft was monitored as it approached the border with the Golan Heights.

The Islamic State terrorist group publishes pictures of what it says are remains of Syrian jet shot down by Israel on June 24, 2018 (Screenshot courtesy of Walla)

And on Monday, Israel fired interceptor missiles toward a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives that were initially believed to be heading toward Israel. The missiles — fired as part of internal Syrian fighting — fell short of the border, and the interceptors did not engage with them.

Israel has insisted that Syria abides by the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which was reached following the Yom Kippur War the year before, that established a demilitarized zone along the border between the two countries. Syria is still formally at war with Israel.

On Friday, Israel shot down a Syrian drone operating in this buffer zone, which Israel said amounted to a violation of the 1974 ceasefire agreement.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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