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Israel strikes Syrian army after stray fire lands in Golan

For a second day, Israeli has attacked Syrian regime positions in response to errant fire into the Golan Heights. Syria has accused Israel of helping rebels and terrorists.

The Israeli military on Sunday said it targeted two artillery positions and an ammunitions truck belonging to the Syrian regime after errant fire landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the second such incident in two days. 

The stray shells landed in an open area and no casualties were reported. Syria's military confirmed one of its posts was attacked in what it said was Israeli support for terrorist groups.  

On Saturday, an Israeli aircraft carried out strikes in Syria after 10 projectiles landed in the Golan Heights.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released a video on Twitter showing airstrikes on a Syrian army with a heavy machine gun position and two tanks.

Israel said the errant fire caused no damage or casualties but constituted an "unacceptable breach" of sovereignty.

"We have no intention of allowing the breech of our sovereignty and harming of our security to go unpassed," said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday. "As far as we are concerned, the Assad regime is responsible for what is happening in its territory and it will continue to bear the consequences if such events repeat themselves."

The incidents occurred as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battle rebels including hard line Islamist factions tied to al-Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in Quneitra province, bordering on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Syria's state-run media SANA reported that the army repelled an attack from al-Qaeda linked rebels near Baath city on Saturday when the "Israeli enemy" attacked, causing damage to buildings and unknown casualties. It accused Israel of supporting terrorist organizations.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said two Syrian soldiers were killed in the attack.  It also reported fighting in Quneitra between the Syrian army and rebels.

Israel annexed a large part of the Golan Heights after capturing it from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed the territory in a move not recognized by the international community.

Israeli contacts with rebels

The Israeli side of the Golan has been hit occasionally by what is believed to be stray fire from fighting in Syria, prompting retaliatory fire into Syria.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors a ceasefire between Syria and Israel along a buffer zone, has accused rebel groups fighting in Quneitra of deliberately firing on the Syrian army from close to the ceasefire line to avoid retaliatory fire.

Syrien Rebellenkämpfer (Reuters/A. Al-Faqir)

Rebels fire mortar shells on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Quneitra province along the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

It has also documented 16 contacts between the Israeli army and "unknown individuals" along the ceasefire line between February and May of this year, including the transfer of "personnel and supplies."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week denied Israel provides support to Syrian rebels after the Wall Street Journal reported a special Israeli unit was providing aid to rebels.

The US paper, citing multiple rebel commanders and Israelis familiar with the strategy, said Israel has for years provided rebels with cash, food, fuel and medical treatment in order to create a friendly force along a buffer zone to separate it from Iranian and Hezbollah forces backing the Assad regime.

The cash has reportedly been used by rebel groups like Fursan al-Joulan to pay salaries and procure weapons and ammunition.

Israel has long boasted of providing medical treatment to Syrians as a humanitarian gesture, but the paper suggested this was a means for Israel to create loyal Syrian rebels. Israeli officials have also said rebels receive treatment as part of a deal that they don't attack Druse, an ethnic and religious minority on both sides of the Golan.

Israel has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011.

Most of the airstrikes have targeted weapons shipments or supplies of Israel's Lebanese enemy Hezbollah, which along with Iran and Russia is one of the key backers helping the al-Assad regime fight rebels and Islamist militants in Syria.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

 

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