Israel bombs Syrian posts over Golan attack on its troops

Benjamin Netanyahu says ‘we hurt those who hurt us’ but further escalation unlikely

An Israeli soldier stands beside a mobile artillery unit near the town of Katzrin in the Golan Heights. Israel launched air strikes today against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters.

An Israeli soldier stands beside a mobile artillery unit near the town of Katzrin in the Golan Heights. Israel launched air strikes today against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters.

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 15:48

Israel has today launched air strikes against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers, but both sides signalled they were not seeking further escalation.

The Syrian army, embroiled in a civil war, said one soldier was killed and seven were wounded in the air raids on three targets. Although Damascus condemned the Israeli attacks, it stopped short of any direct threat of retaliation and affirmed its focus on defeating insurgents.

Israel, by announcing the air raids, as opposed to its official silence about past strikes on arms from Syria believed destined for Lebanon’s Hizbullah guerrillas, appeared intent on delivering a message of deterrence to president Bashar al-Assad.

“Our policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet in public remarks.

“Syrian elements not only allowed but also cooperated in the attacks on our forces,” he said, and by taking military action now the Jewish state wanted to ensure calm was re-established along its northern frontier.

The attack came less than a month after Hizbullah accused Israel of carrying out an air strike on one of its bases on the Lebanon-Syria border. It vowed at the time to respond.

In yesterday’s violence, a bomb was detonated near an Israeli patrol along a fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the part of the strategic plateau under Syrian control.

One of the four wounded soldiers was in critical condition.

Although suspicion in Israel fell on Hizbullah, Israeli leaders did not point a finger directly at the Shi’ite Muslim group, which is allied with Assad in battling a three-year-old rebellion against his rule led by Sunni Islamist insurgents.

Reuters