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Syrian war spills into Israel; machinegun position destroyed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a reminder on how the volatile situation in Syria could escalate past its borders, Israel fired into Syria and destroyed a machine gun position in the Golan Heights from where shots had been fired at Israeli soldiers. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the incident was a deliberate attack on Israel patrols in the occupied territory.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Israeli forces "destroyed a Syrian machine gun nest that fired twice in the last 24 hours on Israeli patrols operating to safeguard the border," spokesman Ofir Gendelman, said on his Twitter page.

Shells have fallen several times inside Israeli-controlled territory during Syria's civil war and Israel has responded likewise before.

Syria's southern provinces, bordering Jordan and Israel are becoming a significant battleground as the capital Damascus, in Syria's south comes into play and President Bashar al-Assad's forces fight hard to prevent rebel advances.

The Israeli military said one of its vehicles was hit by shooting from across the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line on the Golan Heights. There were no injuries.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, said, "Our understanding is that it wasn't stray fire." Israeli soldiers after a second incident "responded with accurate fire toward the Syrian post from which they were fired on", the military said.

Israel views shooting from Syria "with severity," and would not allow "the Syrian army or any other element to violate Israeli sovereignty by firing at our territory," Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the strategic plateau in 1981 in a move that has not won international recognition.

"Any ... fire from the Syrian side will be answered immediately by silencing the sources of fire when we identify them," Yaalon said.

Battles between Syrian government forces and Syrian rebels sometimes take place just a short distance from Israeli lines.

"At times, shells or bullets are fired at Israel. Usually the shooting (from Syria) is not deliberate, but it doesn't matter," senior Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad told Army Radio.

"Israel should not be the target of any attack, whether intentional or unintentional - because after all, if you accept something that was unintentional, that could lead to something intentional in the end," Gilad said.

Israel has reiterated that it expects Assad's government to fall and has voiced concern that its chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas and al-Qaeda.

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