Israeli aircraft have attacked targets in Syria, the Israeli military said, describing the raids as retaliation for an attempted bombing of the border fence by a group of four people, an incident for which Israel held “the Syrian regime accountable”.
Monday’s attacks hit Syrian observation posts, intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft batteries and command-and-control bases, an Israeli military statement said.
“[Israeli army] fighter jets, attack helicopters and aircraft struck military targets in southern Syria, belonging to the Syrian Armed Forces,” the Israeli military said late on Monday.
Syrian state media reported local sources saying Israeli forces had “targeted the Tal al-Ahmar area in the southwestern countryside of Quneitra with four shells”. The attack, the sources added, was launched from the Tel al-Faras area in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A Syrian military source told the dpa news agency that two Syrian army tanks had been damaged in the Israeli shelling. There was no immediate word of any casualties.
Quneitra is under Syrian control within the United Nations-patrolled demilitarised zone between Syria and the Golan Heights, which was occupied and annexed by Israel in 1967 – a move that has not been recognised internationally.
The Israeli raid came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that his government would attack anyone trying to harm it. “We will hurt anyone who tries to hurt us. This principle is valid,” Netanyahu said.
Israel hits group ‘placing explosives’
The Israeli military said it was responding to an alleged attempt by a group of four people to plant explosives along the so-called alpha line that separates the occupied Golan Heights and Syria.
However, they had not crossed the security fence built by Israel several metres inwards from the alpha line.
The Israeli military said on Monday that it had fired on the squad, with surveillance video showing the group engulfed in an explosion.
An Israeli military spokesman referred to them as “former terrorists”, suggesting they had been killed.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been documenting violence in Syria since 2011, said the Israeli fire “killed and wounded” four people, whose identities remain unknown.
Activists in the area, however, said they heard at least one of the four was killed, according to local media reports.
The Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said it was too soon to say if the group belonged to any organisation.
There was no comment from Syria on the fence incident.
Israel for the past weeks has been on heightened alert along the borders with Lebanon and Syria after it reportedly unwittingly killed a member of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah movement in an air raid outside the Syrian capital of Damascus that destroyed an arms depot.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed revenge, although Israeli commentators have said he seems eager to avoid a major escalation as Lebanon faces an unprecedented economic and political crisis worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.