IDF shells Syrian army posts after stray rockets hit Golan

Military says no injuries or damage from projectiles that fell in open territory; Ya’alon: This is a violation of Israeli sovereignty

Israeli soldiers patrol near an Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the Golan Heights, on January 20, 2015. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Israeli soldiers patrol near an Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the Golan Heights, on January 20, 2015. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The IDF launched artillery strikes on two Syrian military targets across Israel’s border on the Golan Heights on Sunday night, in response to errant rocket fire launched from Syria that has landed in Israel in the past two days.

Two mortar shells have fallen in open territory in the northern Golan Heights since Saturday night, as a result of stray fire from the ongoing civil war in the neighboring country. Neither incident caused injuries or damage. Activists have reported intense fighting between Syrian troops and insurgents in the Quneitra area in recent days.

At least two Syrian soldiers were killed in the IDF shelling, according to an unconfirmed report by the Israel Hayom website.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the strikes on Twitter, saying it sees the “Syrian army responsible for what is happening in its territory and will tolerate no attempt to harm Israel’s sovereignty or the security of its citizens.”

IDF spokesman Peter Lerner also responded via Twitter, warning that “Israel will not tolerate violation of its sovereignty.” The Syrian military, he said, “is responsible & accountable for any aggression emanating from Syria.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also confirmed that the army had hit Syrian targets Sunday night, the Hebrew-language Maariv website reported. He called the rockets that fell inside Israel “a violation of sovereignty [that] crosses a red line.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday night that the IDF shelling targeted army positions in a town in southwest Quneitra province, on the Golan.

At least three or four Israeli strikes hit a regime military position inside Saryeh, near the regime’s administrative capital of Baath City, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

They were fired from inside the Golan, he said, but did not have details on any casualties.

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the Golan has been tense, with a growing number of mostly stray rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side, prompting the occasional armed response.

Israel has in recent weeks watched warily as Russia sent arms to Syria to bolster the Assad regime, some of which Jerusalem fears may reach Hezbollah and be used in deliberate attacks against Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

On Saturday, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported the Syrian army has given dozens of Soviet-era tanks to the Islamist Hezbollah organization to help battle its enemies.

The paper said that Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia have launched a “joint operations room” to coordinate their campaign to defeat the extremist Islamic State group, which has captured swathes of Syrian territory during the country’s four-year civil war, as well as the opposition groups, some linked to al-Qaeda, seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

At a recent meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Valdimir Putin, the Israeli leader said Iran and Syria have been arming Hezbollah with advanced weapons, thousands of which are directed at Israeli cities.

“At the same time, Iran, under the auspices of the Syrian army, is attempting to build a second terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights,” he said.

Netanyahu said that he told Putin in “no uncertain terms” that Israel will not tolerate Tehran’s efforts to arm Israel’s enemies in the region, and that Jerusalem has taken and will continue to take action against any such attempts.

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