Israel on Tuesday opened artillery fire into Syria and delivered a sharp warning that it will forcefully act to defend itself after four of its soldiers were wounded by a roadside bomb on the Golan Heights.
Military spokesman Peter Lerner said the patrol noticed “suspicious movement” along the frontier, and when they went to investigate, the bomb went off. “Clearly this is a grave result and we will be following it,” he said.
It was the latest in a series of incidents in the volatile area. Last week, a roadside bomb went off near a military patrol along the Lebanese border, causing no injuries. Earlier this month, the army said it killed two militants affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group fighting alongside Syrian government troops, who were trying to plant a bomb along the frontier.
Although Lerner said it was too early to blame any group for Tuesday’s attack, Israel has been on high alert for an attack by Hezbollah since an Israeli air-strike last month targeted a suspected weapons convoy of the group in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah vowed to avenge the strike, though Israel has never confirmed carrying it out.
Israel has said it will not allow sophisticated weapons to flow from Syria to the Iranian-supported Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a heavily armed foe of the Jewish state.
Lerner said Israel targeted Syrian positions on Tuesday because it holds Syria responsible for all attacks emanating from its territory.
“We view the Syrian army as responsible for the incident,” he said. “I can’t confirm that it was Hezbollah behind this, but it wouldn’t be the first time.”
Israel and Hezbollah fought an intense month-long war in 2006.
Israel vows to defend itself
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed the strategic area in a move that was not internationally recognised. Israeli forces have come under fire on several occasions since a rebellion against al-Assad broke out in 2011.
While relations are hostile, Syria’s ruling Assad family has kept the border area with Israel quiet for most of the past 40 years. Israel is concerned that if Assad is overturned, it could push the country into the hands of militant Islamic extremists or sectarian warfare, destabilising the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will act against such attacks.
“The frontier with Syria has been filling up recently with jihadi elements and Hezbollah, and this presents a new challenge to the state of Israel,” he told Army Radio. “In recent years we have succeeded in preserving the quiet, before the civil war in Syria, and we will act with forcefulness to preserve Israel’s security.”
The Syrian fighting, mostly errant fire, sometimes spills over into Israeli border communities, damaging property and crops, spreading panic and sparking fires. Israel occasionally retaliates.
Despite the animosity, dozens of wounded Syrians have reached the frontier, and Israeli soldiers have brought them into the country for treatment at Israeli hospitals.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-03-18