Israeli troops in Syrian border shoot-out

Incident likely to escalate tensions between Syria and Tel Aviv


Israeli troops shot at a target across the Syrian frontier today in response to gunfire that struck its forces in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said.

A statement said a military vehicle was damaged by shots fired from Syria but that there were no injuries. It said that soldiers “returned precise fire”.

Gunfire incidents across the frontier from Syria have recurred in past months during an escalating a civil war there in which rebels have sought to topple president Bashar al-Assad.

Israel’s army radio said today’s was the third consecutive cross-border shooting this week. The Israeli military added in its statement that it viewed these incidents “with concern”.

Israel captured the Golan territory from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed the area. Negotiations aimed at resolving that conflict ran aground in 2000. Israel has not taken sides in Syria’s internal conflict, but has been worried about the involvement of its Iranian-backed foe, Hizbullah, in the fighting.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held out the prospect on Sunday of Israeli strikes inside Syria to stop Hizbullah and other opponents of Israel getting advanced weapons.

Mr Netanyahu said Israel was “preparing for every scenario” in Syria. He added “we will act to ensure the security interest of Israel’s citizens in the future as well”.

Israel has neither denied nor confirmed reports it attacked Iranian-supplied missiles stored near Damascus this month that it believed were waiting delivery to Hizbullah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006 and is allied with Assad.