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Syrian opposition source: Rebels no threat to Israel

Tensions continue to escalate on northern border after IDF fires Tamuz missile at military post in response to Syrians fire on Golan but opposition source believes Israel need not be concerned

Yoav Zitun
Latest Update: 03.24.13, 14:49 / Israel News

The IDF opened fire at a Syrian military post on Sunday after the Syrians opened fire at IDF soldiers. The IDF used a Tamuz anti-tank guided missile at a Syrian post in the Tel Fares area in the southern Golan Heights. There were no casualties on the Israeli side. The Syrian post was destroyed and two armed Syrians were wounded.

 

Following the incident, construction of the northern border fence was halted. Army presence in the area has been increased with the IDF on high alert.

 

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The Tamuz missile was fired by the Artillery Corp's Meytar unit. The troops that carried out the missile fire were friends and comrades in arms of the soldiers wh were fired at on Saturday night.


צה"ל עשה שוב שימוש בטיל "תמוז" (ארכיון) (צילום: EPA)

IDF uses Tamuz missile (Archive)

 

Speaking of the recent escalation Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said: "We take the firing (of bullets) at IDF forces in Israeli territory very seriously.

 

"In response the IDFreturned fire in line with the government policy: Any violation of Israeli sovereignty and fire from the Syrian side will be answered with the silencing of the source of fire. The Syrian regime is responsible for every breach of sovereignty," Ya'alon added.

 

The Golan Regional Council said that they hope the other side will "get the message" following the Israeli response. The council made it clear that "at this stage there are no special directives to residents and tourists and the quiet in the Golan region is maintained."

 

Commenting on the situation on the Syrian border, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said: "We have witnessed a difficult reminder of the explosive reality along the border with Syria.

 

"The firing at IDF forces this morning was enough to endanger our forces which is why we had to attack and destroy the post where the shots were fired from. We will continue to act at this level to maintain peace. The IDF is prepared for any eventuality." 

 

The shooting along the frontier in the Golan Heights was one of the most serious incidents between the countries since Syria's civil war erupted two years ago. Israel has carefully watched the violence from the sidelines, but has returned fire on several occasions.

 

It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian troops had fired into the Golan intentionally or whether the vehicle had been hit by stray gunfire.

 

An IDF jeep on patrol in the southern Golan Heights was hit by a bullet fired from Syria on Saturday. This time, it was an IDF foot patrol that was hit by Syrian bullets. The IDF responded with heavy artillery directed at the Syrian post where the bullets originated from. The IDF reported it was a direct hit. The post belongs to the Syrian army but the area is occupied by many Syrian rebels.

 

The incident occurred at around 9 pm at the Tel Fares region in the Golan Heights as a bullet hit an IDF jeep. The Northern Command said, "There were no injuries, minor damage was caused to the vehicle."

 

Since Syria's civil war broke out in March 2011, errant mortar shells or machine gun fire have landed in the Golan a number of times. Israel believes most of the cases have been accidental, but it has responded on several occasions.

 

Israel is worried that the embattled Assad regime may try to draw the Jewish state into the fighting in an attempt to divert attention from the civil war. Gantz has also warned that Syrian rebels, who have captured a number of villages on the Syrian side of the Golan, could turn their attention to Israel if they defeat Assad.

  

The heightened tensions on the Syrian border played a key role in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 's decision to apologize to Turkey over the Marmara raid.

 

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu explained that the situation in Syria warrants a reevaluation of Israel's relations with Turkey and noted that the presence of Global Jihad terrorists on the Syrian-Israel border in the Golan Heights "creates serious challenges for our defense establishment."

 

He further added, "It’s important that Turkey and Israel, which both share a border with Syria, are able to communicate with each other and this is also relevant to other regional challenges. In addition, the visit of US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry created an opportunity to end the crisis."

 

"Syria is crumbling, and its massive stockpiles of advanced weapons are starting to fall into the hands of various elements. What we fear most is that terrorist groups will get their hands on chemical weapons."

 

Yet in spite of Israel's concerns over the hold Syrian rebels have on the border region and the recent battles in the area, a Syrian opposition source says Israel has nothing to worry about.

 

"The rebels, especially the 'Free Syrian Army' will not be any threat to Israel after Assad falls from power as they will have to focus on rebuilding the country and will mostly be dealing with Syria's internal matters – and that is something which will take a while."

 

And what of all the extremist Islamic operatives within rebel lines? Here too the Syrian opposition source has an optimistic view: "In general Syrians are not concerned by these operatives because when the regime falls their role will be over and they will search for a new arena."

 

Another burning question is the fate of the chemical weapons held by Assad. "The rebels have complete awareness of the dangers these weapons hold. 

 

Last Wednesday, four wounded Syrians arrived at Israel's border.

 

They were treated by the IDF near the border and two were taken to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa on the orders of Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz .

 

The other two will be returned to Syria.

 

The four were injured by mortar shells and are in moderate condition. Last month, seven Syrians hurt in clashes near the border were treated in Israel. They were returned to Syria after receiving treatment at a Safed hospital. The IDF stressed the incident does not pose a precedent or any change in Israel's policy toward Syria.

 

 

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First Published: 03.24.13, 09:38

 

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