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‘Things happen’: Defense minister seems to hint Israel behind Syria strike

Gantz calms residents of south after military uncovers attack tunnel from the Gaza Strip in Israeli territory

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to IDF Home Front Command soldiers during a visit in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. September 14, 2020. (FLASH90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to IDF Home Front Command soldiers during a visit in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. September 14, 2020. (FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz seemed to hint that Israel was behind a strike on a Syrian position near the Golan Heights border in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, indicating it was a move against Iranian entrenchment in the area.

“I won’t go into who fired what last night. We won’t allow terrorist operatives from Hezbollah or Iran to set up on the Golan Heights border and we will do what is necessary to drive them out of there,” he said in an interview Wednesday morning with the Kan public broadcaster.

Asked if that was the reason behind the alleged Israeli strike, Gantz responded opaquely: “Listen, things happen.”

At roughly 12:30 a.m., Syrian state media reported that Israel fired a missile at a site in the Quneitra province in southern Syria, near the border with Israel’s Golan Heights.

The official SANA news agency said the attack struck a school building in the village of Al-Harah, without providing any further details.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces would not comment on the matter, in line with its so-called “policy of ambiguity” regarding its military activities against Iran and its proxies in Syria. Israel has repeatedly accused the Hezbollah terror group and other Iran-backed militias of setting up bases and operating along the Golan border.

In the radio interview, the defense minister also discussed the increasingly tense situation on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, where this week the military uncovered an attack tunnel from the enclave into Israeli territory. Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters that the passage had been discovered thanks to an underground barrier that is nearing completion along the border.

Gantz assured residents of the Gaza border area that the military had the situation under control and that they need not worry.

“I am telling residents of the south to go about their lives, the IDF is protecting them. This [situation] is supposed to be my concern, you can be relaxed,” he said.

The defense minister also responded to the military’s so-far restrained responses to acts of aggression from Gaza, including the discovery of the tunnel and a rocket attack over the weekend.

“Things don’t happen without a response. I don’t work for Hamas, I retaliate based on my considerations. The equation has changed — no balloons and no rockets, nothing will be tolerated,” he said, referring to Palestinians in Gaza launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices into Israel.

Israel is reportedly involved in ongoing negotiations with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group to reach a six-month ceasefire, leading to wide speculation that the military’s limited retaliations were meant to not derail these efforts.

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