Israel Strikes Syrian Military Positions in Response to Attempted Border Attack

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Syrian Air defenses respond to Israeli missiles allegedly striking targets south of the capital Damascus, on July 20, 2020.
Syrian Air defenses respond to Israeli missiles allegedly striking targets south of the capital Damascus, on July 20, 2020.Credit: AFP

The Israeli army said late on Monday it struck targets in southern Syria in response to an attempted border attack on Sunday night. 

Syrian state media reported its air defense systems were responding to “hostile targets” southwest of Damascus. According to the Syrian report, there were no casualties in the strike.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said its fighter jets and helicopters targeted Syrian army posts, including surveillance and intelligence positions, anti-aircraft batteries and military command-and-control bases. Israel does not normally acknowledge its strikes in neighboring Syria.

Syria's SANA news agency said the strikes led to "material damage only."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli shelling targeted the region of Tel al-Ahmar in the countryside of Quneitra, in south-western Syria. Syrian television also said Israeli helicopters fired missiles toward Syrian army posts in Quneitra. 

IDF soldiers man a position on a road leading to the Syrian border, near the location where the army said it killed four men laying explosives at a security fence, on August 3, 2020.Credit: AFP

On Monday, the Israeli army said it struck four operatives who attempted to plant explosives along the Syria-Israel border overnight. The military did not officially confirm their deaths, however it estimated all four were killed.

Israeli forces identified the squad near an army outpost in the southern Golan Heights that once housed a field hospital for Syrian refugees, according to the army.

Troops and aircraft "fired simultaneously toward a cell of four terrorists, a hit was identified," the army said in a statement. The strike was carried out before the group managed to cross the border fence into Israel, the army confirmed, adding that there were no Israeli casualties in the incident.

IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said on Monday morning that military observation units had been on high alert in the area, after identifying suspicious activity in recent days, with people getting close to the separation barrier dressed as shepherds.

Civilians do not have access to that specific area, the army spokesperson added, which means the squad was targeting Israeli soldiers.

On Monday, Israeli defense officials claimed that it is likely that Iran, rather than Hezbollah which has recently threatened retaliations against Israel, was behind the local cell that attempted to plant the explosive devices along the border. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz initially said in a statement that Hezbollah was responsible for the incident, but a correction that his office sent out moments later omitted any reference to the Lebanese group, and only referred to “terrorists.”

Iran has used other similar local groups and Shi’ite militia members, who were sent to Syria to aid the Assad regime in the civil war, for similar purposes in the past.

If it were indeed an Iranian-backed unit behind the incident, one possible interpretation could be that it was a response to a series of recent airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria attributed to Israel.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an IDF military spokesman, said it was too soon to say if the squad belonged to any organization, but that Israel held "the Syrian regime accountable."

DPA contributed to this report

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