Israel launched air raids against Syrian army positions early Wednesday and issued a stark warning to Damascus just hours after a bomb on the occupied Golan Heights wounded four of its soldiers.
The Syrian armed forces said in a statement that the strike had killed one person and injured seven more.
The Syrian army command warned that “these desperate attempts… endanger the security and stability of the region.”
The air strikes marked the most serious escalation along the ceasefire line with Syria since the 1973 Middle East War, with Israel’s defense minister warning that Damascus would pay a “high price” for helping militants bent on harming the Zionist state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had on Tuesday warned that Israel would act “forcefully” to defend itself following the Golan attack.
“The [IOF] targeted several Syrian army positions which aided and abetted the attack against [IOF] personnel yesterday,” a military statement said, with a spokeswoman confirming the air force had staged bombing raids on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights plateau.
The air raids targeted a Syrian army training facility, a military headquarters and artillery batteries, the statement said.
Military sources confirmed that the air force had carried out four strikes at around 3:00 am.
The air raids took place 12 hours after four Israeli soldiers who were patrolling along the ceasefire line were wounded by a roadside bomb, one of them severely.
It was the third such incident in two weeks along Israel’s northern frontier, with Israeli military officials blaming the Syrian army for complicity in the attack.
In a statement issued at dawn, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel held the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for the attack.
“We see the Assad regime as responsible for what is happening under its authority, and if it continues to cooperate with terror elements who seek to harm Israel, we will make it pay a high price,” Yaalon said.
Israel would not tolerate any “breach” of its sovereignty and would continue to strike anyone seeking to harm its forces or civilians, Yaalon said.
“We will react with determination and force against anyone operating against us, at any time and any place, as we have done tonight,” he said.
“Whoever tries to harm us takes his fate in his hands.”
Netanyahu on Tuesday claimed there was a growing number of “jihadis and Hezbollah elements” on the Syrian Golan, saying it “represents a new threat” for Israel.
In Friday’s incident, an explosion targeted Israeli troops on the Lebanese border, very close to Syria, prompting the military to shell Hezbollah positions over the border.
And on March 5, the Israeli army claimed troops on the Golan had opened fire on Hezbollah members as they tried to plant a bomb near the ceasefire line.
It claimed to have struck the two fighters but did not say what weapon it used or whether they died.
Israel occupied the strategic Golan Heights plateau in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)