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4 killed in Syria as Israeli airstrike responds to rocket attack

4 killed in Syria as Israeli airstrike responds to rocket attack
Israeli soldiers inspect a Aug. 20 fire near Kfar Sold caused by four missiles that officials said were fired from the Syrian side of the border. (Ancho Gosh / European Pressphoto Agency)

Israel's army struck a target in Syria on Friday, killing at least four people, according to military and government officials.

Shortly before noon local time, an Israeli aircraft targeted a vehicle in the northern area of Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights, about six to nine miles from the border, officials said.

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Friday's strike, the second since four rockets were fired from Syria into Israel on Thursday, targeted part of a militant cell responsible for the rocket fire, according to a statement from army spokesman Peter Lerner.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said hitting the cell proved that Israel would not tolerate attempted aggression against its citizens.

Those behind such efforts should know Israel's army will "get its hands on them anytime, anywhere," said Yaalon, cautioning that Israel's resolve "should not be tested."

"We have no intention of escalating the events," but Israel's policy of striking anyone attempting to attack it remains in place, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said the target of the strike included the "cell that launched the rockets and the Syrian forces that enabled the fire."

Syrian state media reports said the target was a civilian vehicle and that those killed were civilians. Syrian rebel sources quoted in Israeli media said the vehicle belonged to Syrian government forces.

Israel consistently holds Syria responsible for any fire from its territory, intentional or otherwise, and directs retaliation at targets belonging to the Syrian army regardless of who was responsible.

However, in this case, Israel also fingered Iran for backing Islamic Jihad, the group Israel blames for Thursday's rocket attack. Netanyahu, who fiercely opposes the proposed nuclear deal with Iran, linked the two Friday.

"The countries rushing to embrace Iran should know that it was an Iranian commander who directed and supported the cell that fired at Israel," he said in a statement.

A spokesman for Islamic Jihad in Gaza denied the allegations that it was behind the rocket attack.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.

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