In an escalation of tensions along the Israel-Syria border, an Israeli airstrike killed several suspected militants believed to be planting a bomb along the border, Israel’s military said Sunday.
A statement from the army said a group of armed men approached the border with an explosive device intended to be detonated against Israeli forces. An Israeli aircraft was launched and fired at the presumed cell, reportedly killing all four.
The incident occurred just east of Majdal Shams, a Druze village on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights that Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Fierce fighting between opposition forces and loyalists of the Syrian regime for control over the Golan strategic plateau in southern Syria has brought the fighting to the border area, now an open and lawless frontier.
Following the incident, the army raised its level of alert along Israel’s northern border. The Israel Defense Forces will not tolerate any attempt to breach Israeli sovereignty, an army statement said.
Sunday’s incident came the day after reports emerged of a series of airstrikes against Syrian army posts and strategic long-range missiles facilities as well as Hezbollah targets in Syria. The strikes, said to have taken place in recent days, were attributed to Israel’s army, which declined comment on the reports that it had attacked weapons convoys earmarked for the Lebanese-based Shiite militia.
Without referring explicitly to the reported strikes against Syria and Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Sunday that Israel will “not allow the transfer of advanced weapons to terror organizations, first and foremost Hezbollah.” Yaalon added that Israel would know how to reach the groups and shipments.
The minister accused Iran of arming Hezbollah and trying to supply the organization with sophisticated and precise weaponry, which was a "red line" for Israel. “We will not allow Iran and Hezbollah to build terror infrastructure on our border with Syria.... We can put our hands on anyone threatening Israel’s citizens.”
Yaalon spoke in Tel-Aviv shortly before the latest border incident.
Sobelman is a special correspondent