Israel fires into Syria after Golan troops come under fire

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 12, 2013 2:41 PM
Israel fires into Syria after Golan troops come under fire

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli military said it fired artillery into Syria on Friday after its troops were shot at on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, in the latest of a series of shooting incidents on the once-quiet front.

"No soldiers were injured and no damage was caused. IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers responded with artillery fire towards the source of the shooting. A direct hit was identified," the military said in a statement.

Battles between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels trying to topple him have spilled over into the Golan Heights in recent weeks with occasional gunfire and mortars landing in Israeli-held territory.

A military spokeswoman said she did not know whether it was Syrian army or rebels who fired at the Israeli troops and whether the fire was stray or deliberate.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed the strategic plateau in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally. U.N. peacekeepers monitor the ceasefire line.

The military said it had notified the United Nations of the incident.

Austria's Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Friday Vienna would have to assess daily whether it was safe enough for Austrian peacekeepers, who account for around 380 of the 1,000-strong U.N. mission, to stay in the Golan.

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In the past three months, Japan and Croatia said they were withdrawing their troops from the peacekeeping mission and if Austria quits the operation it is unclear whether any other nation will replace them.

Israel is anxious for the peacekeepers to remain, worried the Golan will become a springboard for attacks on Israelis by jihadist groups fighting Assad.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Andrew Roche)