An IDF tank fired warning shots at the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad near the Golan Heights cease-fire line between the two countries on Saturday, amid increased tensions along Israel’s northern borders.
The Israeli military said the warning shots came because Syrian forces were constructing a fortified position in the demilitarized zone that runs along the border, in violation of the 1974 truce agreement between Israel and Syria. The agreement “prohibits the entry of heavy construction tools or military vehicles into the demilitarized zone,” the army said.
There were no reports of casualties on the Syrian side.
The army also said it had filed a complaint with the United Nations peacekeeper force stationed on the Golan, which oversee the cease-fire.
The incident occurred near the Druze town of Hader on the Syrian side. The town was the site of a suicide bombing earlier in the month that killed nine Syrian Druze and then sparked clashes between Syrian government forces and rebels.
That incident led to an unusual move from Israel, which said it would defend the Druze population of the village.
In a series of tweets, the army’s Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee said the IDF was prepared to “support the village residents and work to prevent any harm or the occupation of the village, out of a commitment to the Druze population.”
After the incident, dozens of Druze residents of Israel protested at the Syrian border against the escalating violence in Hader.
The IDF’s announcement that it would protect Hader, which lies inside Syria, constituted a very rare example of a public intervention in the Syrian civil war raging across the border.
The statement reflected ongoing pressure on Israeli leaders from the Druze communities in the Galilee and on the Golan to help their coreligionists across the border who are often caught in the crossfire between Sunni rebels and Alawite and Shiite pro-government forces.
Over the past six years, Israel has clung to a hands-off policy toward the war, only getting involved when one of its “red lines” is transgressed. These “red lines” include the violation of Israeli sovereignty through deliberate or accidental attacks, Iranian-supported militias taking positions on the Golan border, and attempts to transfer advanced weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist group.