Syrian mortar shell lands inside Israeli moshav for first time

Residents urge authorities to put a stop to spillover from Syrian fighting; analyst says Assad may be trying to draw Israel into conflict

Power-generating wind turbines in the Golan Heights in northern Israel, next to Moshav Alonei Habashan, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Power-generating wind turbines in the Golan Heights in northern Israel, next to Moshav Alonei Habashan, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Three mortar shells landed across Israel’s border with Syria in the Golan Heights Thursday morning, in what security officials said was likely a spillover from fighting between government forces and rebels in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Two of the shells fell in open areas near moshav Alonei Habashan and caused no injuries or damage. A third landed inside the moshav itself — the first incident of Syrian fire hitting a residential area — but failed to explode and no damage was reported. IDF sappers were dispatched to the scene to defuse it, and the area was closed off.

“It’s a miracle what happened here,” said moshav resident Amir Duvdevani. “I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if it had exploded.”

Another resident urged those in authority to take the necessary steps to prevent Israelis being killed by the Syrian fighting.

Israeli TV analyst Ehud Yaari quoted suggestions in the Arabic media that Syria’s President Bashar Assad was deliberately bringing the fight toward Israel, in a desperate hope that he could save himself by drawing Israel into the conflict. He cited an editorial in the influential A-Sharq Al-Awsat published Thursday to this effect.

Israel has long feared Syrian conflict spillover into the Golan. On Monday, an army jeep was hit by a stray bullet from Syrian territory, just days after top IDF brass toured the region.

The IDF has been kept on high alert since November 3, when three Syrian tanks strayed into the demilitarized zone separating the two borders, leading Israel to lodge an official complaint with UN peacekeepers stationed in the DMZ.

In September a number of mortars fired by regime forces landed in the north of the Golan Heights, and in another incident Syrian soldiers entered the demilitarized zone.

Fighting in Syria started in March 2011 as a revolt against President Bashar Assad, and the ongoing civil war has claimed the lives of more than 36,000, according to opposition sources.

Residents of the Golan Heights were asked to maintain a high alert.

Golan Regional Council head Eli Malka urged the government and the army to bring a complete halt to the fire on the north by sending a message to Syria or, if necessary, by targeting the sources of fire.

“We will not accept the escalation in our region,” said Malka.

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