IDF Again Strikes Back at Syrian Targets After ‘Errant Shelling’

Israeli soldiers of the Golani brigade take position during training in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, on the border with Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Israel is denying Syrian government claims that its forces shot down a warplane and a drone near the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
IDF soldiers of the Golani brigade take position during training in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, on the border with Syria, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

IDF forces overnight retaliated against Syrian positions after four mortar shells fell on the Israeli side of the Golan border Tuesday afternoon and evening. “The IDF will not tolerate attempts to harm the sovereignty of Israel or the safety and security of its citizens,” the army said in a statement. “The IDF sees the Syrian government as responsible for everything that happens in Syrian territory. With that, we will not hesitate to act against other opposition forces in Syria.”

Meanwhile, Syrian media again reported Wednesday that Syrian forces had shot down an Israeli plane over the Golan. Later, that report was “downgraded” to the shooting down of a drone. Israel denied both allegations. Syrian media also reported that the government in Damascus had filed a complaint with the U.N. over the “Israeli aggression” of firing back at sources of the mortar shelling.

Errant shells fell again Tuesday afternoon and later Tuesday evening on the Golan Heights, fired apparently as part of the civil war on the Syrian side of the Golan border. Despite a truce that was supposed to be in effect as of Monday night, residents of the Golan reported hearing gunfire and explosions on the Syrian side of the border.

A pitched battle has been taking place between rebel groups and Syrian Army regulars for control of the Heights. The Syrian army controls a small section of the area adjacent to the border, and it is this area that the rebels are trying to wrest from them. Overnight Monday, a shell from Syria landed in Israel. IDF forces retaliated by firing on Syrian Army positions on the other side of the border fence.

Meanwhile, the IDF on Tuesday held a drill along the Lebanese border, in which residents of several border towns had to quickly evacuate their homes. The drill was part of an overall, wide-scale drill that began Saturday night, as the IDF tests its capabilities and resources. In Tuesday’s drill, residents of the town were notified of an order to evacuate, and they did so on their own, packing vehicles and driving further south to an IDF base where they reported on their experiences.

The evacuation plan covers towns within four kilometers of the border, IDF officials said. It is expected that in the event of a war with Hezbollah or other forces on the Lebanese side of the border, as many as 40% of residents of the Upper Galilee will be evacuated to the center of the country.

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