An Israeli airstrike targeted and killed a group of militants who were spotted placing an explosive on the northern border Sunday night, the army said, a day after an alleged Israeli airstrike on Hezbollah positions in Syria.
The IDF said “a group of armed terrorists” were killed by an air force craft after they were spotted crossing into Israeli territory with an explosive device late Sunday.
IDF spokesman Col. Peter Lerner said the cell consisted of four people who were “identified while clearly laying a mine and were shot by an Israeli Air Force aircraft.”
Initial reports indicated the incident took place near the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams, on the slopes of Mount Hermon.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four Syrian soldiers were killed by a missile fired from Israeli territory in the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “Every attempt to injure our soldiers and our citizens will be met with a decisive response like the IDF action this evening, which thwarted an attempted terror attack.”
“I praise the vigilance of the IDF soldiers that brought about this swift and precise action,” he added.
The incident occurred at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday when an IDF lookout spotted four figures approaching the northern border with Syria holding an explosive device, according to Lerner.
The group was killed while in Israeli territory, though on the Syrian side of the border fence.
The attempted bombing may have been a bid by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to avenge a reported Israeli attack on several targets in Syria and Lebanon last week. The border area in that section is controlled by forces loyal to President Assad, Army Radio said.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned Hezbollah against testing Israel.
“We know how to reach [Hezbollah] and those who direct it, at any time and any place,” Ya’alon said in a speech at military headquarters in Tel Aviv. “We will not allow Hezbollah to establish a terror infrastructure on our borders with Syria, and we know how to lay our hands on anyone who threatens Israeli citizens, along our borders or even far from them.”
Hezbollah has been known to be operating along the Syrian border with Israel on the Golan.
There was no immediate response from Hezbollah or authorities in Syria or Lebanon.
In September 2014, a senior Northern Command officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Times of Israel that although other rebel groups besides Hezbollah control the majority of the Syrian Golan Heights, they have never taken other military action against Israel.
“During the entirety of the past four years, we have not seen so much as a single rebel from this group with the intention or the operational plan facing in this direction,” the senior commander said.
Sunday’s incident occurred where four Israeli soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade were wounded in March 2014 when their patrol jeep ran over a mine in the same area.
The northern border has seen a number of flare-ups over the past years, including an attack on an Israeli convoy in January that left two soldiers dead.
That attack came in response to a reported Israeli strike on a group of Hezbollah and Iranian operatives in the Syrian Golan.
Before the strike, the group had reportedly been planning to set up a base for attacks against Israel in the area.
Israel’s air force chief Amir Eshel warned last week that Hezbollah was “dragging” Lebanon toward “a very harsh war” and has deployed its military machine in the civilian “towns and villages of Lebanon.”
If Hezbollah, with which Israel fought a bitter war in 2006, sparks another conflict, Eshel said, “Lebanon will go through an experience whose dimensions it cannot imagine. I wouldn’t trade places with a single Lebanese.”
AP and Stuart Winer contributed to this report