A 14-year-old boy on Sunday became the first Israeli killed on the Syrian border since it heated up about a year ago as a result of the civil war. Three other men were wounded in the attack, one seriously.
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The teen, Muhammad Fahmi Krakara, was accompanying his father, a contract worker for the Defense Ministry doing maintenance work on the border fence in the Golan Heights. They were in a truck with two other contract workers when the vehicle was hit by a projectile fired from Syria at around 11:30 A.M.
A senior Israel Defense Forces officer said the missile appeared to have been fired directly at the truck. Although the Syrian rebels control that portion of the border, it still isn’t clear who perpetrated the attack, he said.
The IDF responded with tank fire aimed at the Syrian regime forces’ positions across the border. Israel has said in the past that it holds Damascus responsible for any fire emanating from Syrian territory.
The Associated Press, quoting the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that the Syrian army had been shelling targets near the border at the time, so it’s also possible that a stray Syrian army shell could have hit the Israeli truck.
The teen’s father, who was moderately wounded, was evacuated to Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed along with the seriously wounded man. The third worker, who suffered light wounds, was evacuated to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Shlomi Hazan, one of the wounded men, said he hadn’t noticed anything suspicious along the border before his truck was hit, nor had the crew received any warnings from the army of possible danger. After the explosion, he said, he was able to unbuckle his seat belt, get out of the truck and crawl to a ditch beside the road despite strong pains in his chest. There he flagged down another truck that took him to the nearest army outpost, and from there he was flown to the hospital by helicopter.
Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, noted Sunday afternoon that the incident had taken place near the border, far from the Golan’s towns and tourist attractions. “Our instructions to residents are to resume their normal routines,” Malka said.
Nevertheless, he admitted, “The situation has changed. This is the first time they’ve fired at a civilian truck.”
Saber Nasser, a relative of the Krakaras who also works along the border, told Haaretz that Muhammad had just finished eighth grade last week and decided to accompany his father to work for fun. His father works on a water truck that is used to dampen the path along the fence.
A defense official said the elder Krakara hadn’t told anyone in authority that he was taking his son to work with him. “This is the first time we’ve run into such a thing,” the official said.
“This is a dramatic incident,” he added. “We have firing on a civilian vehicle, and that has far-reaching consequences, including for work on the fence.”
The Syrian border has been relatively quiet since March, when a number of attacks took place there. In one, four Israeli soldiers were wounded when a bomb exploded, hitting their jeep near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights. In another, an IDF jeep was hit by an explosive device planted in the Har Dov sector, near the Lebanon border. And in a third, the IDF reported that soldiers opened fire at Hezbollah operatives attempting to plant an explosive device at the border fence in the northern Golan Heights.
Krakara was the first Israeli killed in the north since last December, when Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen was fatally shot by a Lebanese soldier while driving along the Lebanon border near the coast.
Sunday’s incident also marks the third death of a Defense Ministry contract worker by enemy fire. Last December, Palestinians fired over the border fence from Gaza near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, killing Salah Abu Latif, who was doing infrastructure work together with a military unit. In June 2012, Defense Ministry employee Saeed Fashafshe was killed in an ambush on the Philadelphi Route near Moshav Be’er Milka on the Egyptian border.