TEL AVIV – Israeli artillery and aircraft struck targets in Syria after the army blamed the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad for firing rockets that hit the Galilee and parts of the Israeli-held Golan Heights.
“We will not accept efforts to violate Israel’s sovereignty and harm the security of its citizens,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an emailed statement. “We will respond with determination and strength against those who try to challenge us and we will reach them wherever they are.”
Ya’alon said Israel held the Syrian government responsible for rockets fired from a Syrian-held part of the Golan. Still, he said it represented a “prelude” to what can be expected from Iran escaping financial sanctions as part of its agreement to stop nuclear weapons development, a deal Israel is trying to prevent.
The projectiles, which Israel news website Ynet reported were the first to strike the Galilee since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, hit open areas and caused brush fires, but no injuries.
Tension on Israel’s northern border has been growing as what is usually defined as errant fire occasionally hits Israeli-controlled territory. Israel struck 14 targets in response to the Syrian rockets, according to an Israeli military official who spoke to reporters on a conference call organized by the army on condition of anonymity.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its website that Israel fired at Syrian government military positions in Quneitra, causing casualties to Syrian troops. It didn’t give further details.
Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria at Tel Aviv University, said the day’s violence was just part of an “ongoing story, where from time to time there are efforts by Hezbollah to organize groups to attack Israel.”
Ya’alon said Israel does not want to be dragged into the fighting in Syria, while adding, “I don’t suggest testing our determination” to defend the country.
Israel controls the southern section of the Golan that it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.