Israel hits Syrian outpost in response to cross-border fire

Army post at Tel Hazeka targeted by IDF tanks after patrol comes under attack by light arms and mortar lands in Golan; no injuries or damage on Israeli side

An IDF tank in a firing position on the Golan Heights last year (AP/Ariel Schalit)
An IDF tank in a firing position on the Golan Heights last year (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli troops fired tank shells at a Syrian army post Tuesday night after Syrian fighting spilled over into Israel in two separate incidents.

The response came a few hours after an IDF patrol on the border came under light fire from across the border and a Syrian mortar landed in the southern Golan Heights. There were no reports of injuries or damage in either incident.

The attacks came shortly after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, during a tour of the border area, vowed to continue responding to cross-border Syrian fire.

The Israeli tanks hit an outpost at Tel Hazeka, close to where the patrol came under fire. It is not known if there were casualties on the Syrian side. The IDF said it “accurately targeted the source,” of the fire.

In the late afternoon, a shell fired from Syria slammed into Israel near Tel Fares.

Israel has come under spillover fire from Syria’s civil war from time to time, responding on occasions by shooting missiles back into the Syrian Golan Heights, where anti-Bashar Assad rebels are waging a bloody battle for control of the country.

IDF officials estimate that the cross-border fire is likely accidental, but fears of spillover violence have shaken nearly four decades of calm along Israel’s armistice line with Syria, with the UN peacekeepers in place since 1974 scaling back activities.

Earlier in the day, Ya’alon said that Jerusalem would continue to respond to fire from Syria, which he said may or may not be intentional.

“I visited the Northern Command to closely monitor the developments. Across the border there’s been a bloody civil war going on for two years, but we do not interfere as long as it does no damage to our interests,” Ya’alon said. “When it does, by sporadic shooting that may or may not be deliberate, we respond by paralyzing the sources of fire, as has been the case already.”

Defense Minister Ya'alon during visit to the IDF Northern Command, Tuesday (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defence/Flash90)
Defense Minister Ya’alon during visit to the IDF Northern Command, Tuesday (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

Late last month, IDF soldiers fired a Tammuz missile at a Syrian army position in Tel Fares, from which shots were fired both that day and the previous day across the border into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. The missile destroyed the Syrian post and reportedly wounded two gunmen there.

A military spokesman said the soldiers responded with “accurate fire toward the Syrian post from which they were fired upon.” He could not say whether it was regular Syrian forces or rebels who fired. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Speaking Tuesday, Ya’alon, on his first visit to the IDF Northern Command since taking office, reiterated that Israel would act to keep Syria’s vast cache of chemical weapons from falling into the hands of jihadi fighters among the rebels or the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is allied with the regime.

“We have acted to stymie this in the past and will continue to do so,” Ya’alon claimed, possibly alluding to a reported Israeli strike on what Syria called a research facility late last year. Media reports have surmised that a weapons convoy to Hezbollah was actually targeted.

However, added Ya’alon, “All in all, the Golan Heights is quiet.”

Syrian opposition forces on Monday night reportedly captured the northern city of Al-Safira, which is close to many ammunition factories and what is believed to be the regime’s largest cache of chemical weapons.

Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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