Israel Strikes Syrian Army in Second Flare-up in Two Days

Israel targets ammunition truck, two artillery guns in response to errant fire that hit Israeli territory

Smoke billows from the Syrian side of the border, Golan Heights, Israel, June 25, 2017.
JALAA MAREY/AFP

Israel attacked a Syrian army units in the northern Golan Heights on Sunday after errant fire from the Syrian side spilled over into Israeli territory, the second cross-border flare-up in two days.

The Israeli army struck a Syrian army ammunition truck and two artillery guns in the Syrian Golan, the army confirmed after Syrian and Lebanese news outlets reported the attack.

IDF

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"The IDF is not a side to the internal fight in Syria and isn't involved in it. However, it views with severity any attempt to harm the sovereignty of Israel and the safety of its citizens and considers the Syrian regime responsible for what transpires in its territory," the IDF said in a statement.

The army also instructed civilians to steer clear of open areas in the Israeli side, opposite the Syrian town of Quneitra, where rebels and Syrian army troops are fighting.

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After the Israeli attack on Sunday, the Syrian army issued a statement condemning Israeli "aggression in support of terror groups." Syria also warned Israel against "repeating this sort of conduct." 

Earlier on Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces said that several projectiles from Syria hit open areas in the northern Golan Heights. No one was wounded and no damage was caused.  

In a similar chain of events on Saturday, Israel attacked Syrian army positions in the northern Golan Heights in response to errant fire. Two people were reportedly killed in Quneitra in the attack, Syrian media reported.

The Syrian army claimed that the Israeli airstrikes coincided with an attack by Islamist militants on the same positions. The Syrian army said it seemed the two attacks were coordinated and that the attack by Israeli military helicopters supported the Nusra Front's assault on a Quneitra suburb.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the airstrikes "once again made our policy clear: We are not willing to accept any spillover or leakage of fire from any front. We will respond with force to any fire on our territory."

According to a statement by the Syrian army carried by Syria's state news agency, the Israeli attack hit a garage and a residential building and led to the death of a number of people. The incident proved the connection between Israel and local terror groups, the statement said.

The IDF said that an Israeli aircraft struck the Syrian positions that were the source of the errant fire, including two tanks. 

"The IDF will not allow any attempt to harm Israel's sovereignty and the security of its people, and sees the Syrian regime as responsible for what transpires in its territory," the army said in a statement, noting that a complaint has been passed on to UNDOF, the international force in charge of keeping the peace along the border.

The Nusra Front, which split from Al-Qaida and is now part of the Tahrir al-Sham Islamist alliance, is among the rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's government for control of Quneitra and the area has been scene to ongoing violence in recent years.

Israel has carried out airstrikes or fired mortar rounds during the six-year war in Syria, often in response to the occasional spillover, including stray shells from fighting among Syrian factions.

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According to the Israeli army, due to the ongoing internal fighting in Syria near Quneitra, the Israel Defense Forces has requested farmers and civilians not to Valley of Tears in the Golan or the Quneitra salient.

In wake of increased fighting between rebels and regime forces loyal to Assad not far from the border with Israel, near the Quneitra border crossing, there is some spillover into Israel, the Golan Regional Council said.

As a result, they said, farmers working the orchards and fields across from Quneitra have been vacated, and travelers are barred from the area. At this time, there are no special emergency instructions and local are instructed to continue with their regular routine.

At the end of April, three Syrian mortar shells exploded in the Israeli Golan Heights, causing no damage. In response, the Israeli army attacked the positions from which the mortar shells were fired in the Syrian Golan Heights, the army said in a statement.

Reuters contributed background to this report