An errant mortar shell fired from Syria landed near an Israeli town in the Golan Heights on Monday, for the second time in two days. This was the sixth time in just over a week that the infighting from Syria has spilled into Israel.
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Israel Defense Forces tanks fired at two Syrian mortar shell positions in response to the fire, scoring a direct hit. Israel lodged a complaint with the United Nations immediately following the incident.
"A short while ago, a mortar shell hit an open area in the vicinity of an [Israel Defense Forces] post in the central Golan Heights, as part of the internal conflict inside Syria, causing no damage or injuries," the IDF said in a statement.
"In response, IDF soldiers fired tank shells towards the source of the fire, confirming direct hits," added the statement. "The IDF has filed a complaint with the UN forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity."
The IDF on Sunday fired a warning shot at Syria, after a mortar shell landed in Israeli territory. This was the first time Israel has directed weaponry at its northern neighbor since the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
An Israeli security source said the military fired a Tamuz anti-tank missile with a range of 25 kilometers in the direction of a Syrian army mortar crew that had launched a shell which overshot the Golan disengagement fence. There were no casualties on either side.
The missile fired by the IDF was a Tamuz, an anti-tank missile with a range of 25 kilometers. The IDF's use of the Tamuz was first made public last year, although it has actually been in use by the IDF since the 1980s. The Tamuz was used both in the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
An Israeli security source said the military fired in the direction of a Syrian army mortar crew that had launched a shell which overshot the Golan disengagement fence on Sunday, exploding near a northern Israeli community without causing casualties.
"The IDF has filed a complaint through the UN forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity," the IDF said in a statement.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier Sunday warned that Israel would respond should stray Syrian ordnance continue to strike the Golan Heights, highlighting international concerns that the civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict.
"The message has certainly been relayed. To tell you confidently that no shell will fall? I cannot. If a shell falls, we will respond," Barak said in an interview with Army Radio, hours before the incident.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also speaking before Sunday's mortar strike on the Golan, told his cabinet that Israel was "closely following what is happening on our border with Syria and [is] prepared for any development".
Israel last week warned Syrian President Bashar Assad to rein in attacks on rebels near the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Damascus lost to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and which had been mostly quiet for decades.
Three other Syrian mortar shells strayed in the Golan Heights last Thursday, one of which landed on the fence of an Israeli community without exploding. Just a week before that, Israel complained to the United Nations after three Syrian tanks entered a Golan demilitarized zone. Israel also said a stray Syrian bullet hit one of its army jeeps while on patrol.
Israel has tried to stay out of the 19-month Syrian insurgency, reluctant to be drawn into another war and unclear about whether a post-Assad Syria might prove more hostile.
But Barak said last week that he hoped the rebels would win, that Assad would fall, and that "a new stage in the life of Syria will begin."
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, meanwhile, warned troops on the Golan Heights a week ago: "This is a Syrian issue that could become our issue."