Two Israelis were wounded in the Golan Heights Wednesday in collateral damage caused by fighting from across the Syrian border where Al-Qaeda linked rebels took control of the Quneitra border crossing from the Syrian Army under Bashar Assad.
The wounded included a 52-year-old man who was hit in the evening as a tank shell that was seemingly mistakenly fired from Syria struck near a town in the Golan Heights. He was evacuated to the hospital with a cut on his neck.
The IDF had already responded with artillery fire at Syria earlier in the day, after an IDF officer who was in an army outpost adjacent to the border when he was hit by a Syrian bullet. Earlier still, two mortars fired from Syria hit the Golan, causing damage to two vehicles. Yet another mortar struck an open area later in the night.
The IDF said it targeted two Syrian army positions after the soldier was wounded and "hits were confirmed." It gave no further details. The officer was in moderate condition after sustaining a stray bullet to the chest.
Video uploaded by rebels allegedly showing crossing
"There was errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria and an officer was moderately wounded in the Golan Heights," an IDF spokeswoman told AFP, saying the fighting was "right next to the border."
The incidents came amid massive fighting in the Quneitra crossing, prompting Israeli officials to warn local famers to leave the area.
Ynet has learned that the crossing has passed to rebel control and that the Al-Nusra Front, Syrian Revolutionary Front, Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Khalifa Brigade are still clashing with Syrian forces, who reportedly lost over 20 men as part of the fighting.
|Rebels and Syrian army clash near Israeli border (VIDEO: Avihu Shapira)|
Reports and eyewitnesses said the Syrian flag has been taken down from the Syrian side of the border. ISIS is not involved in the offensive.
The crossing is monitored by the United Nations, which oversees traffic between the two enemy countries but the distance between the two warring adversaries' posts is some 200 metres (yards).
Israel feared such an incident would take place as rebels and the Syrian regime battled for the crossing, which is one of the sole remaining areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.
Residents reported hearing explosion from the fire for many miles away even before the mortars hit. The news came as Israel entered its first day without fighting in the south, after parties reached a ceasefire agreement that brought an end to seven weeks of violent fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Fighting not far from Israeli border (Photo: Josh Bakon)
During the operation, a number of rockets hit from the north as well, and it is believed that Palestinians supporting Gaza fired the rockets in solidarity. Tuesday's attack was most likely a misfire by either rebels or the Syrian regime, neither of which have in the past expressed interest in opening another front with Israel.
Photo: Avihu Shapira
Only last Saturday at least five rockets were fired from Syria and Lebanon at the northern Golan Heights and the Western Galilee, hitting an empty house.
Last June IAF jets carried out a number of airstrikes
in Syria after an anti-tank missile that originated in the war-torn country killed a 13-year-old boy and wounded four others, including the boy's father.
In wake of the incident and other like it, the IDF began building "assault stations"
in the Golan Heights - suppressive fire posts along the border with Syria that would offer quick response to any an attack against Israel.
The suppressive fire posts, named by the IDF "Defensive Canopy," will be built in the 210th Territorial Division, that was recently established to secure the border with Syria.
Similar posts have already been built along the Gaza border to coordinate between different military elements in case of an attack against IDF troops. The coordination between the division, the Air Force and others elements, allows for a relatively quick response to suppress the attackers.
The death toll from three years of Syria's civil war has risen to more than 191,000 people, the United Nations reported last Friday.
The figure, covering the period from March 2011 to April 2014, is the first issued by the UN's human rights office since July 2013, when it documented more than 100,000 killed.
Yoav Zitun, Roi Kais and the Associated Press contributed to this report