Israel Fires Retaliatory Missile Into Syria, Wounding Two Soldiers

IDF fire comes in response to two rounds of gunfire shot from Syria into Israel in last 24 hours; Defense Ministry: Israel will respond immediately to any breach of sovereignty.

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Israel Defense Forces troops early Sunday fired a missile into Syrian territory near the Golan Heights and destroyed a machinegun position, in response to two security incidents over the last 24 hours. At least two Syrian soldiers appear to have been wounded from the Israeli fire.

The tensions along the border resumed on Saturday evening after a round of gunfire coming from the Syrian side of the border hit an IDF jeep during a routine patrol in the Golan Heights. Another round was fired from Syria into the same area in Israel on Sunday morning.

No Israeli was wounded in either incident, though the jeep struck on Saturday was lightly damaged. It was unclear whether the rounds were fired with the intention of hitting the IDF vehicle, or if it was a case of stray rounds as a result of fighting between Syrian rebels and regime troops, though Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, said, "Our understanding is that it wasn't stray fire."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ofir Gendelman, wrote on his Twitter page that Israeli forces "destroyed a Syrian machine gun nest that fired twice in the last 24 hours on Israeli patrols operating to safeguard the border."

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's office said Israel viewed the fire from Syria as a "severe" incident and would respond accordingly to any breach to Israeli sovereignty over its territory.

"We view the fire from Syria last night and this morning at IDF troops in Israeli territory as severe. The IDF responded in accordance with government policy: Every breach of Israeli sovereignty and each firing from the Syrian side will be met with an immediate response to silence the source of fire as we identify them. We see the Syrian regime as being responsible for every violation of our sovereignty."

Fighting between the two sides has been taking place on the other side of the border over the past week, with rebels attempting to overrun the Quneitra region, located along the cease-fire line separating Syria and Israel. The rebels have largely been beaten back since they seized control of at least one Druze village and parts of several others in Quneitra province near the 1974 disengagement line.

The frontier has largely been calm in the nearly four decades since Israel and Syria fought a war over the Golan Heights that ended with a UN-monitored cease-fire. But Israeli military officials have expressed concern that a rebel takeover could upset the calm maintained by Assad and his predecessor and father of the late Hafez Assad.

Earlier this month, three mortar shells fired from Syria fell in Israel's southern Golan Heights, landing in an uninhabited area and causing no damage.

Israel has retaliated for sporadic Syrian fire that spilled into Israeli communities on the Golan Heights on several occasions over the past few months. Last November, the IDF returned fire with a Tamuz anti-tank missile after an errant mortar shell fired from Syria landed near an Israeli town in the Golan Heights.

Smoke rises after shells land on the Syrian side on the border in the Golan Heights, March 20, 2013. Credit: AFP
Smoke rises after shells fired by the Syrian army explode in the Syrian village of Bariqa, close to the cease-fire line between Israel and Syria, Nov. 12, 2012.Credit: AP

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