Sunday, November 11, 2012

Israel fires warning shots at Syria over Golan Heights mortar strike

An Israeli Merkava tank crew sit on the Israeli annexed Golan Heights overlooking the Syrian village of Breqa on November, 06, 2012. (AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)

Source: Russia Today

Israel has fired warning shots into Syria after mortars launched from Syrian territory hit an Israeli base in the Golan Heights. It is the first time Israel has fired within Syrian territory since the 1973 war.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) said the missile was fired as a warning short after the errant mortal fired from Syria hit the military post.

"In the midst of Syrian infighting, a mortar shell fired by the Syrian army struck near an outpost at Tel Hazeka," The Jerusalem post cites IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai as saying.

"In light of the policy instituted by IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, a warning round was fired back into Syria. We don't believe it caused injuries or damages," he continued.

The IDF fired a single Tamuz anti-tank missile, a weapon known for its high degree of accuracy, military sources told AFP.

Just hours before the strike, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Syria that Israel would “respond” if stray shells landed inside the Golan Heights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also said Israel was “closely monitoring what is happening on our border with Syria and there too we are ready for any development."

Israel worries the Syrian insurgency could engulf the Golan, turning the region into an ideal base for Islamic militants to launch attacks, as they do from Egypt’s Sinai desert.

Israeli officials fear the fall of President Bashar Assad’s government could further lead to an Islamist power grab in Syria, fueling sectarian war and destabilizing the region.

There are also concerns that the security breakdown in Syria might lead the Lebanese movement Hezbollah – which is allied to Damascus and staunchly opposed to Israel– to acquire control of chemical weapons stockpiles.

Several mortar shells have struck the Golan Heights since the Syrian civil war erupted 19 months ago. Israel has recognized the fire as unintentional, but still holds Damascus responsible.

On Thursday a mortar launched from within Syrian territory hit an Israeli settlement on the territory but did not explode.

Israeli Merkava tanks maneuver on the Israeli annexed Golan Heights overlooking the Syrian village of Breqa on November, 06, 2012. (AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)

Israel recently filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council after Syrian three tanks entered the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights earlier this month. The IDF also filed a complaint with UN peacekeeping forces operating in the area.

The tanks were reportedly engaged in a battle with Syrian rebels in the village of Beer Ajam, which is located in the Syrian controlled portion of the Golan Heights.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 war, though they agreed to return the land to Syria in return for a peace agreement which was rejected by the Arab world.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Syrian forces crossed the ceasefire line into the Golan Heights to retake the territory. The Syrian troops were ultimately ejected by Israel forces.

Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, though they returned about five percent of the territory to Syrian control. The land was merged into a demilitarized zone that is currently patrolled by UN peacekeeping forces.

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