An ISRAELI tank scored “direct hits” on a Syrian army vehicle after a mortar shell landed on Israeli-held territory, in the first direct confrontation between the countries since the Syrian uprising broke out.
Israel has steadfastly tried to avoid getting sucked into the Syrian conflict, but it has grown increasingly worried after a series of mortar shells struck territory in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in recent days.
Israeli military officials have said the mortar fire was spill-over from intense fighting near the frontier between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s army and rebel forces, and not an overt attempt to hit Israel. But Israeli officials have begun to question that assessment and are now exploring whether any of the cross-border fire was intentional.
“We are closely monitoring what is happening and will respond appropriately. We will not allow our borders to be violated or our citizens to be fired upon,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday
Syria’s civil war also shook the country’s northern neighbour, Turkey, after a Syrian fighter jet bombed a rebel-held area near the frontier three times, killing more than a dozen people in the town of Ras al-Ayn.
Potential Israeli involvement in Syria is a far more explosive prospect, however. Open hostilities between the two countries could have wide-ranging consequences, dragging in Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas and perhaps Hamas militants in Gaza, on Israel’s southern flank.
Israeli officials have long feared Assad might try to draw Israel into the fighting in an act of desperation.