Israel fires warning shots into Syria
Israeli troops were engaged on two of the country’s borders yesterday, firing warning shots into Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli army post on the Golan Heights and targeting militants in Gaza in an escalating round of violence over the weekend.
Four Palestinian civilians were reported killed in air strikes on Gaza.
In the north, the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) response came amid concerns that the civil war in Syria could spill across the boundary into the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967.
In the past week, four shells fired from within Syria have landed in the Golan, although none have caused damage or injuries. Eight days ago, three Syrian tanks briefly entered the buffer zone between Syria and the Golan Heights.
Yesterday’s warning shots were the first time the IDF has fired into Syrian territory since the 1973 Yom Kippur war. “A mortar shell targeted an IDF post in the Golan Heights,” said army spokeswoman Avital Leibovich.
“We answered with a warning shot towards Syrian areas. We understand this was a mistake and was not meant to target Israel and then that is why we fired a warning shot in retaliation.”
The Israeli military lodged a complaint through UN forces operating in the area, stating that “fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity”.
In the south, dozens of rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza between Saturday evening and midday yesterday by militants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organisations. Six Palestinians, including four civilians, were reported killed in at least nine separate Israeli air strikes.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that the military was ready to intensify its response to rocket fire from Gaza following the escalation of attacks and counter-attacks.
The round of violence followed a similar spike almost three weeks ago which subsided following intervention by Egyptian mediators.
But some observers believe Mr Netanyahu may be more inclined to order a robust approach in the run-up to Israel’s general election on January 22nd. – (Guardian service)