IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz viewing Syrian fighting on the Golan. Photo: IDF
The Israeli army on Monday declared a swath of the country’s border with Syria on the Golan Heights a closed military area, due to fighting between Syrian government forces and Islamist groups, just across the security fence of the Quneitra crossing point, Israel’s NRG News reported.
Fierce clashes between the two Muslim groups, which have boiled up in recent days, sent explosions echoing into Israeli territory, and a mortar shell slamming down on the Israeli side of the facility. The mortar round prompted the military closure as a safety measure, the IDF said.
Additionally, in recent days, security officials closed off roads, and residents, farmers, and even tourists and hikers were instructed to evacuate selected areas due to cross-border shelling and gunfire which wounded two Israelis, one of them an IDF medical officer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told visiting US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) that Israel was “closely following the events on the Golan Heights where al-Nusra terrorists have kidnapped UN peacekeepers.”
According to the UN, jihadists are holding 44 Fijian troops, and several dozen Filipino peacekeepers evaded capture and fled to safety on the Israeli side of the border over the weekend.
“What we see is that al-Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah – backed by Iran, al-Qaeda and these other terrorists groups are basically defying all international norms, breaking them whether in Lebanon, in Syria or in Gaza,” Netanyahu said.
On Sunday, the Air Force “successfully intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) that breached Israel airspace above the border with Syria near Quneitra.”
“The vehicle was targeted and destroyed by a ‘Patriot’ surface to air missile,” the army said.
“In spite of the IDF’s sensitivity to recent occurrences in the proximity of the border, we have repeatedly stated that we will respond to any breach of Israel’s sovereignty and will continue to act to maintain safety and security to the civilians of the State of Israel,” Spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner said after the shoot down.
On Monday, Yuval Steinitz, Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs told the BBC that, while ”Israel will not intervene in the fighting in Syria,” calling it “a war between Arabs,” he cautioned that ”No one should test us. If we’re attacked, we’ll respond with great force.”
Watch a video of the battles taking place along the border, including tank and mortar fire:
Source:: The Algemeiner