JERUSALEM — Israel fired into Syria and destroyed an army post after gunfire from Syrian territory struck the Israeli-controlled section of the Golan Heights twice in less than 24 hours, hitting an army jeep.
“We take the firing at IDF forces in Israeli territory very seriously,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an e-mailed statement. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, told Army Radio that targeting the Syrian gun post was a response to the rising border threat.
The friction on the southern Golan plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War, follows an agreement by Israel and Turkey to put aside their three-year dispute, in part to address the Syrian civil war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said both countries fear the prospect of terrorist organizations getting hold of Syria’s chemical weapons.
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“The fact that the crisis in Syria is getting worse by the moment was the central consideration,” for Israel’s March 22 apology for killing nine Turks on a ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu said late Saturday on his Facebook page.
Netanyahu delivered the apology in a phone call with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressing regret “for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury” aboard Turkey’s Mavi Marmara ship in the May 2010 raid by Israeli naval commandos. The call was arranged with U.S. help and took place with President Barack Obama on the line, minutes before he departed Israel after a three-day visit.
The exchange of fire in the Golan was the latest spillover of the two-year civil war in Syria between opposition groups and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, in which more than 70,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. Israel annexed the southern Golan Heights, and 20,000 of its citizens now live there. The area is considered illegally occupied territory by the United Nations.
Israeli forces returned fire in accordance with government policy that any violation of Israeli sovereignty will be answered and fire from Syria will be silenced.
“The Syrian regime is responsible for every breach of sovereignty,” Ya’alon said.
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