Israel strikes Syrian army bases after Golan Heights attack

Israeli tanks in Golan Heights on 3 August 2020 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on patrol in the Golan Heights

Israeli aircraft struck Syrian military targets on Monday, the Israeli army confirmed in a rare statement.

Syrian state media acknowledged the strikes, reporting unspecified “material damage” at military outposts near the capital Damascus.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was retaliation for a bombing attempt.

The IDF said earlier it had killed four men planting explosives at the perimeter of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights late on Sunday.

The Israeli military said the cell had crossed into a section of Israeli territory but outside the border fence.

Surveillance footage of the moment Israeli forces opened fired showed the group engulfed in an explosion.

Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said it was too soon to say if the men belonged to a specific organisation, but that Israel held “the Syrian regime accountable”.

Monday’s attack targeted “observation posts and intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft artillery facilities and command and control systems” in Syrian army bases in Qunaitra, the IDF said.

“The IDF holds the Syrian government responsible for all activities on Syrian soil, and will continue operating with determination against any violation of Israeli sovereignty,” the statement added.

Syria’s official news agency Sana reported that the Syrian army had activated its air defences late on Monday against “hostile targets” near the capital Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that dawn air raids on the city of Boukamal, near the Iraqi border in the northeast, had killed 15 people.

Tensions have been rising between rivals Israel and Syria, particularly along Israel’s northern frontier, since an apparent Israeli air strike killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria two weeks ago.

Israel had anticipated that the Iranian-backed Lebanese group would retaliate.

Correction 4 August 2020: An earlier version of this story has been amended to make clear that the Israeli military said the attempted bombing took place on its territory.