Israeli firefighters contain blaze near Syria border
Initial assessments point to tracer ammunition used in fighting between Syrian forces and rebels as cause of fire.
Firefighters Tuesday afternoon succeeded in containing a fire on the Israeli side of the Syrian border in the central Golan Heights. At one point the blaze in the Bashanit mountain area, apparently caused by tracers of ammunition fired on the other side of the frontier a few hours earlier, came within a few dozen meters of an Israeli army base. No damage or injuries were reported.
According to initial assessments, tracer ammunition used in exchanges of fire between the Syrian army and rebel forces ignited foliage in and around the Syrian border villages of Beer Adam and Bariqa. Over the last few days, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have tried to dislodge dissident forces from an enclave in the area.
Syrian tanks attempting to reestablish control in the sector effectively violated the 1974 Israeli-Syrian cease-fire agreement on Saturday by entering Beer Ajam. The pact, signed in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. designates the area as a buffer zone in which the presence of tanks is forbidden.
Rebels and Syrian forces have been exchanging fire near the border for some time. Stray bullets often end up in Israeli territory. On Monday, a stray bullet hit the jeep of the commander of the Golani Brigade's reconnaissance battalion. There were no injuries.
Another fire ignited by Syrian tracer ammunition was put out last week. And on Yom Kippur eve, in September, mortar shells apparently fired by the Syrian Army landed in orchards on the Israeli side of the frontier.
Gabi Koniel, manager of the orchards of Kibbutz Merom Golan, located to the east of the area hit by mortar shells in September, isn't perturbed by what is going on across the border. “There is no tension, or fear. These days, my biggest concern is the rain that has yet to come. I'm waiting for the downpour, which is essential for agriculture,” he said. “Every aspect of the daily routine goes on – tourism, agriculture, education. These days we are harvesting Pink Lady apples in orchards near the border, as always, with fear that something might happen.”