June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli aircraft attacked Syrian military sites after a teenager became Israel’s first fatality from more than three years of Syrian conflict, drawing it deeper into its northern neighbor’s fighting.
Nine positions were struck, including launching sites and a Syrian command center, the army said in an e-mailed statement. Syria said four people were killed by the strikes and nine injured, and its government wrote to the United Nations to protest Israeli “aggressions,” according to the official news agency SANA.
A 15-year-old Israeli Arab died, and two others, including his father, a Defense Ministry contractor, were wounded by an antitank missile that struck a water tanker, Israeli officials said. The assault, which the Israeli military characterized as deliberate, escalated tensions along the Syrian frontier at a time when Israel is clashing with West Bank militants in its search for three kidnapped teens and battling rocket squads firing at its south from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
“We view the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian military as responsible for what is taking place in the area under their control, and we will respond aggressively and harshly against any provocations and violation of our sovereignty,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said today in an e-mailed statement.
“This incident shows it isn’t business as usual in the Golan Heights for Israel, and Israel can’t see the fighting as none of their business,” Yoram Meital, a professor of political science at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, said in a phone interview. “The closer the fighting gets to Israel, the harder it will be for Israel to stay out.”
Syrian troops fired on rebels in the Quneitra region bordering Israeli-occupied territory in the Golan, killing 40, most of them foreign fighters, SANA reported today.
Israel retaliated after the teenager’s death with tank fire into Syria, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a telephone briefing with reporters yesterday.
Since the fighting in Syria broke out, the military has reported multiple incidents of stray and deliberate fire. In March, its aircraft struck Syrian military positions after a roadside bomb wounded four soldiers on the Golan; in early June, it deployed an Iron Dome missile defense battery on the plateau following errant fire.
Israel captured the southern Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the territory in 1981 in a move that isn’t internationally recognized.
The death in the Golan came as Israel intensified its search for three teenagers abducted in the West Bank on June 12 and carried out air strikes against Gaza Strip militants who have launched more than 22 rockets at southern Israel since the abduction.
Four Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Israeli troops in the West Bank in the past week, including two shot dead yesterday, according to Palestinian officials. The Israeli military says it raided 1,350 locations and arrested 340 Palestinians, most from Hamas, in the hunt for the youths.
The Palestinian leadership issued a statement yesterday calling for the United Nations to convene a Security Council meeting “to put an end to the brutal and continuous aggression” taking place in the West Bank “under the pretext of the search” for the missing teenagers, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said on its website.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has evidence that the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible for the kidnappings. Once proof of Hamas complicity in the kidnapping is made public, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should dismantle the governing coalition he formed with the group on June 2, he said. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told Al-Jazeera television today that his group had no information about the missing Israelis, while praising whoever carried out the abduction.
Abbas has condemned the kidnappings and said his security forces are cooperating in the search for the missing youths.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at email@example.com Ben Holland, Jim Silver