Syria post near Golan border bombed, unclear if Israel involved

IDF declines to comment on report of jets hitting Assad government-held building near Quneitra; Hezbollah points finger at Nusra Front

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria's Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with Assad regime forces, seen from the Golan Heights in 2014. (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)
Illustrative: Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria's Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with Assad regime forces, seen from the Golan Heights in 2014. (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

A Syrian government building near the Golan border was bombed Wednesday, with some reports initially attributing the attack to Israel.

However, Hezbollah and several Arab media outlets indicated the building in Medinat al-Ba’ath had been attacked by rebel groups.

It wasn’t immediately clear what purpose the building served, or whether it was occupied at the time of the strike. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the planes targeted Hezbollah operatives in the area.

The Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news agency denied the accuracy of reports attributing the bombing to Israeli airstrikes in Syria, quoting Hezbollah saying the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front launched rockets at Quneitra, inflicting casualties.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, meanwhile, claimed Free Syrian Army forces fired rockets at Assad forces in Medinat al-Ba’ath.

The Syrian Qasioun news agency claimed that the building was an Assad government command post that may have been used for Hezbollah activities.

There was no immediate response to the reports in the Syrian official news agency and the IDF Spokesman’s Unit said it didn’t comment on reports regarding Israeli strikes in Syria.

Shortly after the reported strike, the Local Coordination Committees in Syria reported that Assad government helicopters bombed the nearby towns of Umm Batna and Ajraf.

Syrian Army artillery then were said to target and destroy Nusra Front positions in response to the reported rocket attacks on Medinat al-Ba’ath.

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Earlier in the day, gunfire hit an army post near the Israeli town of Metulla on the Lebanon border. The IDF said it was investigating but believed the bullets to be stray fire from across the border.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marked 10 years since the Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah by warning that “if the need arises, we will respond to aggression — and the response will be powerful. Whoever thinks they will find ‘spiderwebs’ here will get… an iron fist.”

He was alluding to a 2000 speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in which he called the Jewish state “feebler than a spiderweb.”

Israel has maintained an official policy of nonintervention in the Syrian civil war, which has wracked the country for over five years and left over 250,000 dead and millions displaced but Israeli officials have made clear that Israel would act to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining sophisticated weaponry from Syria or Iran.

The IDF has also retaliated when fighting by the various rebel groups and government forces struck Israel.

Earlier this month the IDF struck two Syrian artillery pieces after errant fire struck just inside the border fence with Israel.

On Sunday, the army also attempted to shoot down a drone that infiltrated the Golan from Syria, but failed to hit it with two Patriot missiles and a missile shot from a jet.

The IDF has been bolstering defenses along the northern border, expanding the network of fences and surveillance capabilities, to prepare for a possible war with Hezbollah, the Shiite group that fought a war with Israel in 2006 and has vowed to destroy the Jewish state.

The border has been largely quiet in the ten years since the Second Lebanon War, with Hezbollah’s forces deployed to support Iranian and Assad regime forces in the Syrian civil war.

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