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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Ten killed as Israel launches air strikes on Syria

Robert Tait

Published 24/06/2014 | 02:30

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The father of Mohammed Qaraqara kneels next to his coffin during his funeral in the northern town of Arabeh. An attack from inside Syria on Sunday killed a 13-year-old Israeli boy, Qaraqara, on the occupied Golan Heights, the first fatality on Israel's side of the frontier since the Syrian civil war began, relatives and the military said. Photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
The father of Mohammed Qaraqara kneels next to his coffin during his funeral in the northern town of Arabeh. An attack from inside Syria on Sunday killed a 13-year-old Israeli boy, Qaraqara, on the occupied Golan Heights, the first fatality on Israel's side of the frontier since the Syrian civil war began, relatives and the military said. Photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

At least 10 Syrian soldiers have been killed in a series of Israeli retaliatory raids triggered by the death of a 13-year-old boy in a missile strike.

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The soldiers are reported to have died after Israeli war planes struck nine military sites in Syria overnight, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Two tanks and two artillery batteries were destroyed in the strikes, the observatory added. The raids were Israel's biggest retaliatory action since the start of Syria's bloody civil war more than three years ago.

The reports of Syrian casualties came after Israel claimed it had scored direct hits on nine targets in response to the death on Sunday of Mohammed Qaraqara, an Arab-Israeli schoolboy who was inside a civilian SUV when it was struck by what is believed to have been a Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missile.

The incident happened in the Israel-held section of Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War, while Mohammed was with his father, who was carrying out maintenance work on a frontier fence in his capacity as a contractor for the Israeli defence ministry. It was the first Israeli fatality resulting from the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Israel-held territory. And last night Israel's prime minister warned the warring parties in Syria against any attempt to heat up tensions with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond with even tougher force if there are any further attacks.

"Last night we operated with great force against Syrian targets that acted against us, and if needed we will use additional force," he said.

Israel has kept a close eye on the Syrian uprising, although it has avoided backing either side in the conflict. On several occasions, artillery rounds have landed on the Israeli side of the de facto border, drawing limited Israeli reprisals.

Israel also has carried out several airstrikes in Syria, primarily targeting suspected weapons shipments allegedly destined for Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon.

The latest raids targeted Syrian military headquarters and launching positions, the Israeli army said.

Aggression

Lt Col Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces, called Sunday's incident "an unprovoked act of aggression against Israel".

There was no immediate response from the Syrian authorities.

While there was no firm evidence of whether Sunday's deadly missile strike came from pro-government forces or rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad, Israeli officials said they held the Syrian regime responsible for all attacks on territory under Israel's control.

Early indications suggested that it was the work of either Syrian forces or Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia group that has been fighting on Mr Assad's side against the rebels, Israeli analysts said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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