An Israeli Arab teen was killed by fire from Syria that struck the Israeli-held area of the Golan Heights, the nation’s first fatal spillover from more than three years of Syrian conflict, Israeli defense officials said.
Two others were wounded in the attack, including the boy’s father, a civilian contractor for the Defense Ministry, officials said. The deadly assault 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.
“This is not a case of errant fire but of an intended attack,” and Israel is retaliating with tank fire into Syria, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a telephone briefing with reporters. While the projectile was launched from rebel-held positions, Israel doesn’t know who was responsible, Lerner said.
The 15-year-old boy was killed after an unidentified projectile hit a truck-mounted water tanker, he said. Israel regards it as the “most serious” incident since fighting broke out in Syria in March 2011, Lerner added. The Defense Ministry identified the teen as an Israeli Arab whose father was a civilian contractor for the ministry. Israel Radio said he was 13.
“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 of the fighting.”
Since the violence 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 today, according to Palestinian officials. One, who ignored soldiers’ warning shots, appears to have been “mentally unstable,” according to the military, which 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 today 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 today on its website.
Netanyahu says he has “unequivocal” proof 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.
Israel also holds Hamas responsible for all assaults on southern Israel from Gaza, the Palestinian enclave it controls. Israeli aircraft targeted three militant sites in Gaza overnight after three rockets fired from the territory struck open areas in southern Israel, causing no injuries, the military said.