Tensions on the northern border rose to a dangerous new level on Tuesday as, for the first time since the Syrian civil war began, the Syrian military has admitted to deliberately firing at an IDF position on the Golan Heights.
At daybreak, fire from across the border in Syrian territory hit an Israeli armored jeep. B’chasdei Shamayim, no one was hurt and only minor damage was caused to the vehicle.
The IDF returned fire with a Tammuz missile which hit the location from which the Syrian fire had come.
Unlike numerous previous incidents, which the Syrians attributed to stray shells in battles with rebel forces, this time a Syrian military spokesman offically announced that they had targeted an Israeli patrol on the Golan.
The Syrians exaggerated their report of the damage done to the jeep, claiming it had been “completely destroyed,” which was rejected by the IDF.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz toured the border area on Tuesday along with the commander of the northern district Gen. Yair Golan.
Gantz made a personal inspection of the IDF’s readiness, speaking with officers and soldiers stationed in the area. During his tour, he stressed the need for “alertness during this tense and challenging period.”
Sometime later, the chief of staff joined a conference to mark the 25th year of the security studies program at the University of Haifa, where he addressed the exchange of fire on the border: “Our patrol evening was focused particularly on the border area, and did not enter Syrian territory, contrary to Syrian claims. They fired three times from a position in their territory, and we responded, destroying their position.”
Gantz emphasized that the IDF has been monitoring the situation, and believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad is the cause, that he “is directing and encouraging expanded operations against Israel in various ways and via the Golan Heights. We will not permit the Golan Heights to be turned into a comfortable field of operations for Assad.” Gantz warned that “if Assad [worsens] the situation on the Golan Heights, he will have to bear the consequences. I am not a volatile person, but we will have to know how defend [ourselves]. All in all, the reality on the Golan Heights is unstable, and it is being undermined,” Gantz said.
Two similar incidents occurred last month, when light artillery fire came from inside Syria. IDF forces responded accordingly with tank fire and missiles at the source of the fire.
In a briefing during an inspection tour led by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on the Golan Heights a month ago, he commented on the border situation:
“We are not intervening as long as it doesn’t harm our interests,” he said. “But when it does, whether from automatic rifles or Grad rockets, whether aimed deliberately at our territory or not, we will respond in order to silence the source of the fire.”
In the IDF, they listened carefully on Tuesday to the threats being issued by Damascus, according to which the time for Syrian restraint in the face of Israel actions has ended, and said that Israel will not be intimidated. “The only ones who will lose in any confrontation will be the Syrians alone.”