Israel warns of stepped up retaliatory strikes on Syria if spillover persists
JALAA MAREY (AFP)
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) warned on Saturday that it will escalate its retaliatory strikes if apparent spillover from the Syrian civil war continues to see stray rockets land in the Israeli-held Golan Heights.
The IDF said in a statement that it struck three Syrian artillery positions near the northern Golan Heights on Saturday after five rogue rockets landed in open terrain in northern Israel.
Sirens warning of incoming rockets were activated in the Golan Heights area early Saturday morning.
The IDF said in a statement that five projectiles landed in Israeli territory with no damage or injuries and that in response they "targeted three Syrian artillery cannons".
"Whether errant fire or not, any future occurrences will force the IDF to intensify its response," it warned.
"The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its residents, and considers the Syrian regime responsible for what is happening in its territory," the army said.
On Saturday night Channel Two cited sources in the "defense establishment" as estimating that the rocket fire was deliberate rather than accidental, as the IDF's official position insists.
The sources said that the launch time was unusual and that there were no known battles taking place in the area at the time the rockets flew over the border.
Projectiles have sporadically landed in northern Israel throughout Syria's years-long civil war.
Israel has responded to previous incidents of rocket spillover by striking Syrian army positions, including one a retaliatory strike on Thursday.
Israel holds the regime of Bashar Al-Assad responsible for all fire emanating from the country.
Syria's foreign ministry fired off two letters to the United Nations Secretary General and the head of the UN Security Council on Monday protesting the Israeli response, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
The letter reportedly warned "again warns of the serious repercussions" of Israeli fire into Syrian territory.
Syria also accused Israel of orchestrating the rocket fire, saying "terrorists linked to Israel had launched mortar shells, upon the instruction of the Israeli occupation" and urged the Security Council "to take decisive steps to put an end to these repeated aggressions [sic]."
Thursday's incident came less than a week after the Israeli Air Force announced that it had carried out a strike on a SA-5 battery some 50 kilometers east of Damascus, which fired a missile towards Israeli fighter jets on a reconnaissance flight over neighboring Lebanon.
It was the first instance of a Syrian battery firing at an Israeli jet in Lebanese air space since the start of the civil war in 2011.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Russia's President Vladimir Putin in August that Iran was seeking to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, and flagged a possible Israeli military response to such moves.
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