Two Syrian gunmen of unknown affiliation infiltrated an unmanned IDF military outpost in the southern Golan Heights in the demilitarized zone Tuesday night. Shots were then fired at an IDF patrol approaching the area.
It wasn’t initially clear where the shots came from, with some reports indicating they came from inside Syria, where Assad forces were possibly targeting the gunmen, believed to be rebels.
“Earlier this evening, suspicious movement was spotted in an unmanned IDF position, east of the fence, in the southern Golan Heights. Shots were fired at the patrol, which returned fire,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told The Times of Israel.
There were no reports of injuries or damage.
The troops were scanning the area for the gunmen. Helicopters and fighter jets were scrambled to the scene and sirens were heard in nearby towns.
Earlier Tuesday, the Golan Heights was hit by at least 10 mortar shells, assumed to have been shot by mistake during clashes between rebel and military forces near the border.
The IDF reported that it had filed a complaint with the UN peacekeeping forces in the Golan and requested that they bring an end to cross-border shelling.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israel would not hesitate to respond to fire with fire. “Once attacks from Syria endanger us or violate our sovereignty, we will identify the source of fire and destroy it,” Ya’alon said.
“We have set down red lines to protect our interests,” he added.
In the past, Israel has shot missiles at Syrian army positions in response to other incidents of errant mortar fire.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as well as to the president of the Security Council, urging them to condemn the Syrian violations in the Golan Heights.
“Israel has thus far shown maximum restraint and issued numerous warnings through UNDOF. However, the Israeli government will not allow its citizens to be the ongoing victims of these attacks and will continue to exercise its right to self-defense, as appropriate, and take all necessary measures to protect its population,” wrote Prosor.
He warned that such violations threaten to further destabilize the region.