Israel Fires 'Warning' Tank Shell at Syrian Forces Near Border

Israeli army saw military activity in demilitarized zone, in violation of ceasefire agreements

File photo: An IDF tank on the border with Syria, Nov 27, 2016
File photo: An IDF tank on the border with Syria, Nov 27, 2016 Gil Eliahu

The Israeli army fired a shell at Syrian forces across the border after it identified Syrian construction in a military outpost in the demilitarized zone.

The Israel Defense Forces said the Syrian military activity, in an outpost near the Druze village of Khader in the Golan Heights, was in violation of cease-fire agreements, and it was decided to fire a tank shell as a warning shot. The Syrians were fortifying a redoubt near Khader and the work spilled over into the demilitarized zone. 

To really understand the Middle East - subscribe

This was just the latest in a number of incidents in the region recently. The most recent incident along an already tense border occurred last week, when Israel’s Patriot missile defense system shot down a drone on the border with Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said. The intercepted drone reportedly belonged to the Syrian regime and was on an intelligence-gathering mission in the border area around Quneitra. The drone then entered the demilitarized zone and flew toward Israel before being shot down.

The Israeli military attributes these incidents to attempts by President Bashar Assad’s regime to test Israel’s limits and preparedness along the border with Syria. As a result, the miltiary said, it responds immediately to every such incident. The military is trying to make it clear to the Syrians and their allies it has no intention of changing the rules of the game in the region.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently referred to the events in the north, saying “Israel views any violation of its sovereignty with severity and will respond powerfully to every provocation.” 

He added that Israel views the Assad regime as responsible for every act and violation in the area, including the actions of all groups operating in Syria. “We will not allow the consolidation of the Shi’ite axis in Syria as a forward operations base,” Lieberman added after the latest drone incident.   

Two weeks ago, the Israeli army issued a statement declaring it would intervene militarily to prevent the occupation of Khader after the town had come under attack from the Nusra Front, an Islamic militant group. The statement followed heavy fighting in Khader, located approximately 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the Israeli border, including a car bomb that killed at least nine people and wounded 23.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted saying that Russia has not promised to ensure a withdrawal of pro-Iranian forces in Syria, and that the Iranian presence in Syria is legitimate. 

Israeli defense figures are troubled by this and by the fact that the superpowers seem unwilling to take genuine measures to kick Iran out of Syria in general, and southern Syria in particular.

A U.S National Security Council delegation arrived in Israeli also on Tuesday, in order to discuss Iran and the situation in southern Syria.

Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot discussed Iran on Thursday, in an interview in the Saudi newspaper Elaph. Eisenkot said that Israel and Saudi Arabia are in full agreement about Iran's intentions, and that said Israel was willing to "exchange information with moderate Arab countries, including intelligence information in order to deal with Iran."