JERUSALEM – Israeli aircraft struck various positions in Syria Saturday, destroying two tanks, in response to more than 10 projectiles that landed in its territory, the military said.
The flare-up marked a rare case of Israeli involvement in the bloody fighting next door. Israel has steadfastly stayed on the sidelines of Syria’s civil war, now in its seventh year, refraining from taking sides or getting drawn into hostilities. It has responded in the past with limited strikes when fire has spilled into Israel and holds the Syrian government responsible for any such incidents. It’s also reportedly hit advanced weapons shipments from Syria to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
On Saturday, the Israeli military said fighting between Syrian troops and rebels had spilled over again, with projectiles landing on the Israeli side of the frontier. It said no injuries or damage was caused but with Israelis flocking to the Golan Heights in the summer for hikes and fruit picking, the military took the precautionary step of asking civilians to avoid gathering near the border. Later, it announced that it had targeted the source of the fire and hit two tanks belonging to the Syrian military.
Syrian state media said a number of people were killed.
“We have no intention of allowing the breech of our sovereignty and harming of our security to go unpassed,” said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “As far as we are concerned, the Assad regime is responsible for what is happening in its territory and it will continue to bear the consequences if such events repeat themselves.”
The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said Syrian troops and their allies repelled an attack by insurgents on the outskirts of the southern city of Baath on the edge of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. The SCMM accused an Israeli helicopter of assisting insurgents in their attack on military outposts.
Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on his Arabic-language Facebook page that about 10 shells hit the Israeli-occupied area nearby, adding that Israel’s air force struck Syrian army targets in the area.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that Israeli warplanes attacked a Syrian army position in Quneitra while Syria’s state-run news agency SANA said “an army position was targeted in Quneitra.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.