Israeli tanks fired multiple shells into Syria today, with no indication so far what, if anything, was actually hit in the strikes. Israeli officials say they were in response to a mortar exploding in Israeli-occupied Golan.
The mortar, which appears to have been a stray from the ongoing fighting in Syrian Golan, struck an empty field near a settlement, and officials say they aren’t sure whether government forces or rebels fired it.
This is the second time in a little over a week that Israel has fired into Syria, with a previous missile launch destroying a military outpost and wounding two (apparently rebel) fighters. Israeli officials said it proved a “no tolerance” policy to bullets straying across the border.
Rebels have been making inroads into the Syrian portion of Golan, and have been promising to liberate all of Syria, including the Israeli occupied portions. Israel annexed the occupied Golan Heights in 1981, though that annexation is not recognized by any other nations, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered to return the territory to Syria near the end of his term as part of a broader peace deal, which was scrapped by the next Israeli government.
Though a victory by the Western-backed rebels could set the stage for new fighting over Israel’s annexed territories, Israel seems to have an eye on using the confusion of the Syrian Civil War as a pretext to seize a new “buffer zone,” designed to buffer the occupied Heights, which were originally supposed to be a buffer zone. Reports have Israel’s military poised to capture 5 miles more of Golan, bringing them in direct conflict with the rebels (that hold most of this territory) and also putting the Israeli military a stone’s throw from Metro Damascus.
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