Israeli war planes have unleashed airstrikes against Syrian army targets in response to a roadside bombing in the Golan Heights that wounded four soldiers.
In addition to the airstrikes, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he pursues a path harmful to Israel, he would “regret his actions”.
There was no immediate word from Syrian authorities on the air raids.
But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said the Israeli air force targeted several “strategic posts of the Syrian army” near the villages of Kom and Nouriyeh. It said there were casualties among the Syrian military but gave no further details.
Yesterday’s roadside bombing and today’s strikes are the most significant escalation between Israel and Syria since the Syrian conflict began three years ago – though neither country has expressed interest in entering a war.
The military said the Israeli air force targeted a Syrian army training facility, an army headquarters and artillery batteries early on Wednesday. Israel also carried out artillery strikes against Syrian military targets shortly after Tuesday’s bombing.
“There is a new situation on the Syrian frontier,” said lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defence chief, on Army Radio. “This will continue to be a serious challenge for us.”
The Golan Heights bombing was the latest in a series of incidents along Israel’s volatile frontiers. Last week, a roadside bomb exploded near an Israeli military patrol along the Lebanese border, causing no injuries.
Earlier this month, the Israeli army said it killed two militants affiliated with Hezbollah – the Lebanese militant group fighting in Syria alongside Assad’s troops – as they were trying to plant a bomb along the frontier.
Also, an Israeli airstrike last month reportedly targeted a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy in southern Lebanon, though officials in Jerusalem never confirmed it.
Hezbollah said it would retaliate for the airstrike, which killed a Hezbollah official overseeing the operation, according to a senior Lebanese security official.
Israel’s army stopped short of saying Hezbollah was behind yesterday’s bombing but Mr Yaalon’s statement put the blame on Assad’s government.
“If (Assad) continues to cooperate with terrorists seeking to harm Israel, we will exact a heavy price from him, in a way that will cause him to regret his actions,” Mr Yaalon said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Syria’s army has assisted and participated in attacks on Israeli forces.
“Our policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us,” he said.