Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Israeli, Syrian troops trade fire in Golan Heights

JERUSALEM — Israeli and Syrian troops exchanged fire across their tense cease-fire line in the Golan Heights on Tuesday, prompting an Israeli threat that Syria's leader will "bear the consequences" of further escalation and raising new concerns that the civil war there could explode into a region-wide conflict.

The incident marked the first time the Syrian army has acknowledged firing intentionally at Israeli troops since the civil war erupted more than two years ago. President Bashar Assad's regime appears to be trying to project toughness in response to three Israeli airstrikes near Damascus in recent months.

In the exchange, an Israeli jeep came under fire during an overnight patrol in the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed. Syria claimed it destroyed the vehicle after it crossed the cease-fire line.
The Syrians, naturally, declared it a major victory:
The Syrian army released a statement claiming that its forces “destroyed an Israeli vehicle with everything that it had in it.” The Syrians said the jeep was attacked only after it crossed the cease-fire line in the direction of a village called Bir al-Ajam, one of several on the Syrian side that have changed hands in fighting between rebels and Syrian army forces in recent months.
“The jeep was on the Israeli side of the line,” said Capt. Eytan Buchman, an IDF spokesman. He said the vehicle was struck by one bullet and the soldiers were unharmed.