Saturday 20 December 2014

Israeli jets bomb Syrian targets

Published 23/06/2014 | 06:41

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli warplanes have bombed targets inside Syria a day after a cross-border attack killed a 14-year-old Israeli Arab boy.

Israel said it struck nine military targets inside Syria and "direct hits were confirmed".

The sites were near the site of yesterday's violence in the Golan Heights and included a regional military command centre and unspecified "launching positions".

In yesterday's attack, an Israeli civilian vehicle was struck by forces in Syria in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, killing the boy and wounding two others in the first deadly incident along the volatile Israeli-Syrian front since Syria's civil war erupted more than three years ago.

The Israeli vehicle was delivering water during contract work for the Defence Ministry when it was struck.

"Yesterday's attack was an unprovoked act of aggression against Israel, and a direct continuation to recent attacks that occurred in the area," said military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner.

He said the military "will not tolerate any attempt to breach Israel's sovereignty and will act in order to safeguard the civilians of the state of Israel".

The sudden burst of violence has added to the tense situation in Israel, where forces have spent the past week and half in a broad ground operation in the West Bank in search of three teenage boys believed to have been abducted by Hamas militants.

Israel has carefully monitored the fighting in Syria, but has generally kept its distance and avoided taking sides. On several occasions, mortar shells and other types of fire have landed on the Israeli side of the de facto border, drawing limited Israeli reprisals. Israel is also believed to have carried out several air strikes on arms shipments it believed to be headed from Syria to Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon.

It was not immediately clear whether Syrian troops or one of the many rebel groups battling the government carried out yesterday's deadly attack in the Golan, but Lt Col Lerner said it was clear that the attack was intentional.

Israel has repeatedly said it holds the Syrian government responsible for any attacks emanating from its territory, regardless of who actually carries them out.

The Jewish state captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel's annexation of the area has never been recognised internationally.

The incident happened in the area of Tel Hazeka, near the Quneitra crossing. British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops had shelled nearby targets on the Syrian border earlier in the day.

Israeli police said the boy as Mohammed Karaka from the Arab village of Arraba in northern Israel. Reports said he had accompanied his father, the truck driver, to work.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke to the boy's father and sent his condolences.

"Our enemies don't differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, adults and children," he told an international gathering of Jewish journalists.

In his address, Mr Netanyahu said in conflicts like Syria, where al Qaida-inspired extremists are battling Iranian-backed Syrian troops, there was no good choice and it was best for Israel to sit back and let its enemies weaken each other.

"This is a fault line between civilisation and savagery," he said.

Press Association

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