Syrians Report Israeli Drone Strike Kills Commander of pro-Assad Militia

Alleged Israeli airstrike targets vehicle in Quneitra area of Syrian Golan Heights, days after flare-up. Opposition websites claim man was high-ranking officer in regime's air defense system.

A view of Quneitra from Israel, 2015.
A view of Quneitra from Israel, 2015. Gil Eliahu

According to Syrian reports on Sunday, a Syrian man was killed when the vehicle he was driving was fired on by an Israeli drone in the Quneitra area in the Syrian Golan Heights.

The man has been identified as Yasser Assayed, but there have been conflicting reports as to his role. An official affiliated with the Syrian regime told Haaretz that Assayed was a member of the Golan Battalion, a mostly Druze militia that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen news channel also reported that Assayed was not a member of the Shi'ite militia. According to the report, Assayed was with the national defense militia, which fights alongside regime troops.

According to reports on Syrian opposition websites, Assayed was a senior officer in country's air defense system.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the reports.

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This follows an incident late on Thursday when Israel Air Force planes struck several targets over the Syrian border and Syria's air defense system answered by firing an anti-aircraft missile at them.

It was the most serious episode between Syria and Israel since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war six years ago.

Israel's "Arrow" anti-missile defense system shot down the Syrian missile, making it the first time the system was put to use.

Responding to the reports about the Syrian actions, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that if Syria's air defense system fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli planes, Israel will destroy it.

Also Sunday, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eisenkot said that Israel is focused on preventing Hezbollah from receiving shipments of advanced weapons.

"The place of enemy armies is being taken by terror organizations and new threats," Eisenkot said at the change of command ceremony for the army's GOC Northern Command. "Thanks to your daily work, quiet has been maintained for more than a decade along Israel's borders. The quiet enables people living on both sides of the border to maintain daily routines and economic growth," said Eisenkot.

"We shall make great efforts so that this can continue for many more years," he added.

Eisenkot continued by saying that the army is "monitoring changes in the Lebanon and Syrian sectors. In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues its efforts to rearm with lethal and more precise weaponry whose purpose is to hit the Israeli home front, thus violating [United Nations Security Resolution] 1701," which was intended to end the 2006 Second Lebanon War, "and introducing weapons into villages."

"The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: Lebanon and the organizations operating under its authority and its approval," said Eisenkot. "We are protecting our security interests and acting to prevent weapons transfers to Hezbollah and will make every effort to prevent it in the future as well."