Israel bombs vehicle in Syrian Golan after cross-border sniper attempt

No immediate reports of injuries; Syrian state-run news says attack carried out on civilian vehicle near Quneitra

The Israel Defense Forces bombed a Syrian vehicle that the military said was used in an attempted sniper attack on Israeli troops near the Golan border Monday.

The skirmish took place in the Quneitra region in the demilitarized buffer zone between the countries, the latest in a series of recent cross-border clashes in the area. However, this was the first of these to be acknowledged by Israel.

“A short time ago an IDF force identified an attempt at a sniping attack in the northern Golan Heights,” the military said in a statement. “The force attacked the vehicle involved in the attempted attack.”

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the vehicle belonged to members of a militia loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Pictures purportedly from the scene showed the burning white truck, which appeared to be completely destroyed in the strike.

A vehicle that was reportedly struck by an Israeli missile strike in Syria, near the Golan border with Israel, on March 2, 2020. (Courtesy)

Videos from the scene shared on social media showed a helicopter firing flares and then a missile. They could not immediately be independently verified.

Syrian state-run news agency SANA claimed that Israeli forces fired a missile at a civilian vehicle “in the suburbs of Quneitra.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel would “cut off the hands of the enemy” in order to prevent attacks against the country.

“Even on election day our enemies try to harm us,” he said in a statement while campaigning for Monday’s national parliamentary elections. “This day too, as on every day, we will cut off the hands of the enemy and not allow them to hinder our daily lives.”

Last Thursday, Israeli aircraft attacked Syrian army positions in the Golan Heights, hours after a reported Israeli strike on a vehicle, Syrian state media said. Helicopters fired missiles at army positions in Quneitra, and the nearby towns of al-Qataniyah and al-Hurriyet, SANA said. It said three soldiers were injured in the strikes.

The IDF refused to comment on the reported strikes.

A picture taken on July 26, 2018, near Kibbutz Ein Zivan in the Israeli Golan Heights, shows smoke rising above buildings across the border in Syria during airstrikes backing a government-led offensive in the southern province of Quneitra. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Those bombings came hours after SANA reported that an Israeli drone killed one person in southern Syria’s Quneitra province, in the demilitarized zone near the border with Israel.

“A civilian was martyred when his car was targeted by a drone belonging to the Israeli enemy south of the town of Hader,” SANA said.

An informed source named the man as Imad Tawil. Israeli reports described him as a local resident who had been recruited by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and served as a local commander for the organization. The reports said Tawil was apparently involved in setting up “terror infrastructure” that could be used to launch attacks along the border.

Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, but the IDF has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.

Israel has in the past accused Iran of attempting to set up rocket launching crews and other “terror infrastructure” in the Syrian Golan Heights, to be used against Israel.

An agreement with Russia was supposed to push Iranian and Tehran-backed militias, including Hezbollah, dozens of kilometers away from the border.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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