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24 Mar, 2013 08:40

Israel to 'immediately' respond to all Syrian cross-border shooting

Israel to 'immediately' respond to all Syrian cross-border shooting

Israel will “immediately” respond to Syrian gunfire on the border of Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, stated new Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. The statement comes after Israel returned fire from over the border, wounding two Syrian soldiers.

"Every violation of Israeli sovereignty and shooting from the Syrian side will immediately be answered by silencing the source of fire," AFP quoted him as saying after Israeli troops opened fire towards a Syrian military post.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired a Tamuz anti-tank guided missile into Syrian territory after Syrian troops opened fire for the second time in twelve hours, according to YNet News.  

Israeli forces "destroyed a Syrian machine gun nest that fired on Israeli patrols operating to safeguard the border," spokesperson for the prime minister's Office, Ofir Gendelman, tweeted.

At least two Syrian soldiers were wounded with no casualties on the Israeli side. 

The tensions along the border began on Saturday when a round of gunfire from the Syrian side hit an IDF jeep during an evening patrol in the Golan Heights. No one was injured in the incident.

"Our understanding is that it wasn't stray fire," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said.

It remains unclear whether the fire was aimed at the Israeli vehicle or was the result of indiscriminate fighting between rebels and government forces.

Israel is concerned over the tense situation at the Golan Heights border and fears a spillover of violence, as Syrian rebels have been making advances to capture territory from government forces.

Over the past few months Israel has had to respond to sporadic fire coming from Syrian side.

Israel took over the Golan Heights plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, a move that was never recognized by the international community.

Right now Israel is working on upgrading a security fence along the borderline. 

Tensions between Israel and Syria have been escalating in the past few months. At the end of January, the Syrian military said Israeli jets had targeted a scientific research center near Damascus after repeatedly violating Lebanese airspace. But US officials confirmed only that the jets attacked a target on the Syria-Lebanon border.

The airstrike came amid Israeli concerns over Syrian chemical arms falling into militants’ hands.

Israel even threatened to launch a preemptive strike on Syria if the Assad government loses control of its chemical weapons stockpiles, according to Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom.

As a direct response to the strike, the Syrian military reportedly deployed at least four Scud-type ballistic missiles targeting Israeli territory.

Syria has been torn apart by violence with the UN estimating more than 70,000 people being killed and over 2 million internally displaced in the two-year uprising against the government of Bashar Assad. Country's bloody civil war is spilling over the Golan Heights ceasefire line, as well as Syria’s border with Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, threatening to spread to the entire region.