For First Time, Assad Regime Claims Responsibility for Firing at Israel

Syria forces, IDF exchange fire for third time this week; IDF Chief Benny Gantz says Syrian president Assad would suffer consequences of any more attacks on Israel.

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The Syrian regime would suffer the consequences of additional attacks on Israel, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned, responding to the exchange of fire between Israel and Syria on the border overnight Monday. The government of President Bashar Assad assumed responsibility for the attack.

"We will not allow the area of the Golan Heights to turn into an easy target for  Syrian attacks," Gantz said.

"We are seeing things happening in Syria - the transfer of military equipment, Assad is issuing warnings, talking, leading and encouraging the expansion of actions against the State of Israel at various levels, including the Golan Heights.

"Last night Syrian positions fired three times while we were patrolling along the border fence.  We've had enough – the position was destroyed. We will not allow the area of the Golan Heights to turn into an easy target for Syrian attacks. If he tries to do so, he will suffer the consequences.  I am not a belligerent man, but we have to be prepared to defend ourselves. All in all, the situation in the Golan Heights is increasingly unstable."

The Syrian government took responsibility for firing at Israeli forces on Tuesday, marking the first time that the regime of President Bashar Assad has made such a claim. 

Syrian forces fired at Israeli forces on Monday night, the third such incident this week. At approximately 1 A.M., Syrian forces fired at IDF troops patrolling near Tel Fares in the central Golan Heights. No one was wounded, but an army jeep was damaged.

Syrian State TV reported Tuesday afternoon that the Syrian army destroyed an armored IDF vehicle that entered the demilitarized zone between the two countries in Bir Ajam and that at least one person was inside when it exploded. Senior IDF officials told Haaretz that the claim the vehicle was destroyed was fabricated.

The Syrian declaration comes after more than 10 such incidents took place over the last year.

The IDF believes the assumption of responsibility for the fire is part of a new policy adopted by Assad since the aerial attacks in April to open a front against Israel on the Golan Heights.  

Responding to events on the Syrian border, Defense Minister Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon said "Our policy is clear: We do not interfere in what goes on in Syria, or in its civil war. As for the situation in the Golan Heights, we do not and will not allow any Syrian fire to enter our territory. Last night a Syrian army target was destroyed as a result of such fire."

Following the incident, the Artillery Corps returned fire with precision Tammuz missiles. IDF officials said that a military response to the firing incidents on the border was being considered in detail and in accordance with a situation assessment in progress. It is not yet known whether the gunfire was aimed at the IDF troops or was stray fire from the nearby fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels.

In an additional fallout from the Syrian conflict Tueday, the IDF transferred a Syrian national injured by fighting in his country to Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed. He went into surgery to treat shrapnel wounds to his abdomen. He is now in stable condition.

Earlier this week, IDF troops were fired upon near Tel Hazeka in two separate incidents. There were no injuries or damage in either incident. While the IDF did not return fire, IDF officials sent a message to the UNDOF troops charged with maintaining the cease-fire between Israel and Syria.

This is the third time the IDF has fired a Tammuz missile in response to Syrian fire at Israel. The Tammuz missiles, which are fired by the Artillery Corps, are capable of precision strikes at targets up to 25 kilometers away, using an electro-optic sensor. The estimated cost of every Tammuz missile is half a million shekels.

During the Shavuot holiday, mortar shells were fired at Mount Hermon for the first time since the stray gunfire from the civil war in Syria began. A Palestinian group took responsibility for the gunfire, which took place on Nakba Day. After the incident, IDF officials closed the site to visitors and later reopened it. After the chief of staff met with the Northern Command to discuss the incident, a decision was made not to retaliate.

Lebanese Army soldiers during a protest organized by Syrians living in Lebanon in support of President Assad.Credit: Reuters
Stray mortar shell lands in Israel's northern Golan Heights.Credit: Gil Eliyahu (Archive)

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