Israel Launches Retaliatory Air Strike on Syria

Israeli soldiers stand in the Golan Heights overlooking Syria March 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israeli soldiers stand in the Golan Heights overlooking Syria March 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The Israeli air force unleashed a series of airstrikes on Syrian military posts early Wednesday, killing one soldier and wounding seven in one of the most serious clashes between the countries in the past four decades.

The airstrikes came in retaliation for a roadside bombing a day earlier in the Golan Heights that wounded four Israeli soldiers on patrol along the tense frontier with Syria.

The one soldier who was seriously wounded has undergone two operations for injuries to the head at Rambam Hospital in Haifa and remained in a life-threatening condition. Hospital officials said he was still sedated as of late Wednesday, Ynet reported.

The overnight raids marked a sharp escalation of activity for Israel, which largely has stayed on the sidelines during the Syrian civil war.

Further escalation was seen as unlikely, however. Analysts said they did not expect the situation to deteriorate, since neither Israel nor Syria is interested in a full-fledged war. Assad is focused on his battle against the rebels and Israel has little desire to upset a period of relative quiet.

The Israeli military said its warplanes hit a Syrian army training facility, an army headquarters and artillery batteries. Israel also had carried out artillery strikes against Syrian military targets shortly after Tuesday’s bombing.

The Syrian military said the raids early Wednesday targeted three army posts near the town of Quneitra, on the edge of the Israeli side of the Golan. It confirmed the death of one soldier and said seven wounded.

Israeli analyst Ephraim Kam said neither Syria nor Israel want war, and that Hizbullah and Israel are interested in only limited confrontations.

“What can Israel achieve by going to war?” asked Kam, a researcher at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies. “Syria is not in a position to go to war now, with civil war taking place.”

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