Israel complains of Syrian tanks at Golan DMZ

Updated 04 November 2012
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Israel complains of Syrian tanks at Golan DMZ

JERUSALEM: Three Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights on Saturday, prompting Israel to complain to UN peacekeepers, a military spokesman said. The foray would be the first such violation in 40 years and hikes concerns that violence from Syria’s civil war could heat up a long-quiet frontier.
Israel’s relatively low-key response of turning to the UN suggested it did not see the Syrian armor as an immediate threat.
But the entry marks the most serious spillover of Syria’s turmoil at the frontier to date. Misfired Syrian shells have exploded inside Israel on several occasions and a tourist site was temporary shut after armed Syrians were spotted near by recently.
The three tanks entered the DMZ on Saturday and Israel lodged a complaint with the peacekeepers, an Israeli military spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military protocol. She did not elaborate on what the tanks were doing.
The Israeli news site Ynet said the tanks and two armored personnel carriers drove a few kilometers (miles) away from Israeli military positions.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. It later annexed the strategic territory overlooking northern Israel in a move that is not recognized internationally. Before 1967, Syria used the highlands to shell Israeli villages and farms.
The DMZ, which is about 7 kilometers (3.5 miles) at its widest and 200 meters (yards) at its narrowest, was created after the 1973 war in which Syria tried to retake the plateau.
Marco Carminjani, an official with the UN body supervising the zone, said he could not immediately confirm the entry of the tanks. But if the report is true, he said, it would be a violation of the 1974 disengagement agreement between Syria and Israel. He said it would be the first such move in the zone since the accord.
There was no immediate comment from Syria.
Israel and Syria have been bitter enemies for decades and have fought several wars but the border has been mostly quiet for years.
There is concern in Israel that if the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is toppled, the country could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists or descend into sectarian warfare, destabilizing the region.
Israeli officials have also expressed concern that the frontier region could turn into a lawless area like Egypt’s Sinai desert, where Islamic militants have gained strength since the ouster last year of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

Updated 19 June 2018
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Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

  • The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria
  • Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

JERUSALEM: Israel declined to comment on Tuesday on a weekend air strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria after its US ally implicated it in the attack.
The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria.
Fighters of Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly composed of Iran-trained Shiite militia, have played a major role in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Daesh group in Syria as well as Iraq.
But their presence has sparked confrontations with both Washington, which has been supporting a Kurdish-led alliance that controls other parts of eastern Syria, and Israel, which fears Iranian-inspired attacks on its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.
Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But US officials denied any involvement and instead pointed the finger at Israel.
“We have reasons to believe that it was an Israeli strike,” one US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli military declined to be drawn on the US claims. “We are not commenting on foreign reports,” a spokeswoman said.
The military has carried out previous strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, but most have been significantly closer to Israel or the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Last month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, raising fears of a major confrontation.
Those strikes followed a barrage of rockets that Israel said was fired toward its forces in the occupied Golan by Iran from Syria.
Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, Netanyahu reiterated his position that “Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria.”
“We will take action — and are already taking action — against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria,” the prime minister said.
“We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria.”
Israeli seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Iran has been a close ally of the Syrian regime for some four decades and, with Russia, has been a key supporter in the civil war that broke out in 2011.