New Israeli airstrike reported in Syrian territory

Israel said to target missile positions north of Damascus after 4 militants hit planting explosive device along the border

Hours after an Israeli air strike on militants along the Syrian border, Arab news networks al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya reported a new Israeli attack in Syrian territory early Monday morning, targeting missile launchers held by Hezbollah and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It was the third alleged Israeli strike on the Syrian front in two days.

The reported strike in the Qalamoun mountains, northeast of Damascus — also the location of alleged Israeli sorties against Hezbollah and Assad targets on Saturday — was said to have caused several casualties, though the number of dead and injured was not immediately provided.

There was no official confirmation of the Arab media report.

On Sunday night an Israeli airstrike targeted and killed a group of militants who were spotted placing an explosive on the northern border, army officials said. The IDF said “a group of armed terrorists” were killed in an Israeli air strike late on Sunday after they were spotted crossing into Israeli territory with an explosive device.

IDF spokesman Col. Peter Lerner said the militant cell hit Sunday night consisted of four people who were “identified while clearly laying a mine and were shot by an Israeli Air Force aircraft.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four Syrian soldiers were killed by a missile fired from Israeli territory on the Golan Heights.

On Saturday, Israel reportedly hit several targets belonging to Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the Qalamoun area, on the border between Syria and Lebanon.

According to a report in al-Jazeera, the Syrian targets were the 155th and 65th divisions of Assad’s army, which are in charge of “strategic weapons,” while the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported that the targets were Scud missile depots housed in the military bases.

The area is known as a Syrian military site that contains weapons depots and installations. There was no official word from Hezbollah or the Syrian government on the alleged attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Sunday night’s strike on the militant cell: “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 troops that brought about this swift and precise action,” he added.

The border incident occurred at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday when an IDF lookout spotted four figures holding an explosive device as they approached the northern border with Syria, according to Lerner.

The group was killed while in Israeli territory, though on the Syrian side of the border fence.

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 in 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 have the ability to reach anyone who threatens Israeli citizens along our borders or even far from them.”

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.

Israeli Air Force chief Amir Eshel warned last week that Hezbollah was “dragging” Lebanon toward “a very harsh war” and had deployed its military machine in the civilian “towns and villages of Lebanon.”

Eshel said that if Hezbollah, with which Israel fought a bitter war in 2006, should spark another conflict, “Lebanon will go through an experience whose dimensions it cannot imagine. I wouldn’t trade places with a single Lebanese.”

Avi Issacharoff and AP contributed to this report.

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