Israel, Syrians, trade fire across ceasefire line

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An Israeli tank fired into Syrian territory on Tuesday night after Syrian mortar and small-arms fire hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights the military said.

An Israeli army statement said troops “returned precise fire at the source and reported a direct hit.”

In response to a query from AFP a spokeswoman said it was an Israeli tank that returned fire. She did not give further details.

There were no Israeli casualties from the Syrian fire, the army said.

A spokeswoman said the incidents were reported to U.N. ceasefire monitors in the area.

Last week Israeli troops on the strategic plateau fired an Israeli-made Tamuz anti-tank missile at a Syrian army post after coming under fire twice in 12 hours.

It was not clear in any of the cases whether the shooting was from the Syrian army or from rebel forces in the area.

Last November, gunfire from Syria prompted troops to respond with artillery in the first instance of Israeli fire at the Syrian military since the 1973 Middle East war.

Israel is closely monitoring its border with Syria amid fears jihadist elements from among the rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad might attempt to attack the Jewish state.

Earlier on Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon repeated a warning to respond to every instance of fire from the Syrian-held side.

“Whether it’s aimed at our territory or not we respond to silence the source of fire, as happened last week,” he told reporters during a visit to the Golan.

Yaalon went on to reiterate Israel concerns that Syrian government stocks of chemical or other weapons which could pose a threat to the Jewish state might fall into the hands of militant jihadist among the rebels.

“We have acted and will act in order not to all such weapons to reach irresponsible groups,” he said.

Israel seized the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community.

Since 1974, the U.N.’s Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has been monitoring the Syrian side of the armistice line with a force of 1,200 troops, although its number has recently dropped to 1,000.