Israel rejects Syrian 'spillover' as tensions escalate

In a sign of increasing tensions between Israel and Syria as the two traded fire for a second day, Israel confirmed it no longer regarded Syria's cross border incursions as a “spillover” from its 20-month long uprising.

“Until 24 hours ago our assessment was that the ordinance that had landed in Israel was spillover from the internal Syrian conflict – unfortunately that is no longer our assessment,” an Israeli official said last night on the condition of anonymity.

“We are concerned that it is not stray fire,” the official said, but would not be drawn further on whether Israel had any plans to escalate its response on its northern border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was closely monitoring the situation and would “respond appropriately”.

“We will not allow our borders to be violated or our citizens to be fired upon,” he said.

Amid reports on Israeli television that Syrian soldiers had been wounded by a tank shell fired by the Israel Defence Force in response to Syrian artillery fire, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for “the utmost restraint”.

He urged Syria and Israel to uphold the Disengagement Agreement, and halt firing of any kind across the ceasefire line.

On Sunday, following a similar mortar attack from Syrian forces, Israeli soldiers fired a missile across the border in response.

The cross fire is the most serious military engagement between the two countries since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six Day War in 1967 and has occupied the territory ever since, with the border area monitored by a United Nations observer force.

Israel filed a complaint with UN forces operating in the Golan Heights, stating artillery fire emanating from Syria into Israel would not be tolerated and would provoke a severe response.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio: “After a number of shelling incidents into Israeli territory during recent weeks, I instructed the IDF to respond in-kind should the situation recur.

“Today, another mortar shell was fired from Syria, landing on an IDF outpost. The Chief of Staff ordered the IDF to return fire on the mortar outpost [from which the mortar was fired]. This was a sign to Syria that we will not tolerate shelling into our territory.”

This story Israel rejects Syrian 'spillover' as tensions escalate first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.