In first, Iron Dome intercepts 2 projectiles fired from Syria
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In first, Iron Dome intercepts 2 projectiles fired from Syria

Defense system successfully neutralizes threats over Golan Heights, as Syrian fighting once again spills over to Israel

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)

Two projectiles fired from Syria were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system on Saturday afternoon, the IDF said.

The apparently errant projectiles were destroyed mid-flight with no harm to civilians or property. Military officials said the projectiles were the result of fighting inside Syria and were not meant to target Israel.

The first missile was reportedly intercepted at around 4 p.m. local time. The second one approximately 90 minutes later.

“This is the first time that fire from Syria has been intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system,” a military spokesman said.

Officials told Channel 2 News that the projectiles would likely not have hit Israeli territory. Iron Dome was nevertheless activated in order to send a message to both Israelis and Syrians that it would defend its territory from fire near the border.

On Thursday, Israeli security sources told The Times of Israel that errant projectiles from Syria that have landed on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights over the past two weeks have been fired by Syrian opposition groups as well as by Syrian army forces.

Some of the errant fire has come from the former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist group which recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fath Al-Sham, according to the sources.

There was no indication that the mortar fire was intentional. Rather, it is seen as the unintended result of the ongoing civil war in the neighboring country and the struggle over territory, specifically areas in the Syrian Golan Heights between Hader and Quneitra which are parallel to the Israeli side, the sources said.

Israel routinely retaliates against stray mortar hits inside its territory by striking Syrian army targets, which it holds responsible for all spillover fire, regardless of the source.

However, the IDF said this week, following another projectile strike, that it “will not hesitate to act against any opposition forces in Syria,” in what could be seen as a departure from recent policy.

The policy of striking Syrian army positions has led to claims in Damascus and elsewhere that the Israeli army is working to protect and even aid the rebel fighters. The IDF says it is not involved or taking sides in the Syrian fighting.

The most recent incident involving errant fire came on Wednesday evening when a mortar shell struck the northern Golan Heights, exploding in an open field near Israel’s border with Syria.

It was the sixth such incident this week and came as fighting between Assad regime forces and the numerous rebel groups in southern Syria escalated in recent weeks.

Avi Issacharoff and AFP contributed to this report.

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