Israel shoots at Hezbollah fighters on Syrian Golan

Israeli army says fighters were shot as they were trying to plant a bomb near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

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Israeli troops shot two Lebanese Hezbollah fighters who tried to plant a bomb on the fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syrian-held territory on Wednesday, the army said, according to Reuters news agency.

Israeli intelligence had identified the men as members of Hezbollah, which is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight a three-year-old rebellion, an army spokeswoman said.

She had no immediate word on their condition.

Syria’s civil war has brought an end to decades of calm on the Golan Heights, a strip of land which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Battles between rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syrian villages nearby are being watched intensely by Israel’s military.

Hezbollah, which is also backed by Iran, has sent thousands of its own fighters to combat Syrian rebels, according to Israeli and Western estimates.

Israel last fought Hezbollah in a 2006 Lebanon war and still closely monitors the Lebanese border. Israel says Hezbollah hastens of thousands of rockets in its south Lebanon stronghold.

The Jewish state is worried Hezbollah is making initial preparations for future confrontation with it on a new front with Syria and is accruing valuable combat experience on the Syrian battlefield.

Meanwhile, Syrian military helicopters launched three raids in areas inside Lebanon close to the border town of Arsal, witnesses and Lebanon’s official news agency said.

Helicopters carried out the raids in the largely unpopulated mountainous areas on the outskirts of Arsal near the Syrian border, witnesses said according to Agence France- Presse.

It was unclear if there were any casualties in the raids, which Lebanon’s National News Agency said hit the areas of Khirbet Yunin and Wadi Ajram.

Syrian war planes and helicopters regularly carry out air strikes and rocket attacks in the border area inside Lebanese territory.

In December, the Lebanese army used its air defence systems against Syrian helicopters after one such attack in the area around Arsal.

That was believed to be the first time the Lebanese army had responded to a raid, though it had previously threatened to do so.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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