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Israeli troops wound man near Syrian Golan fence
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot across the ceasefire line with Syria on the occupied Golan Heights to wound a man suspected of planning to tamper with the boundary fence on Saturday, the military said.
The Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed, has been largely untouched by the 17-month-old uprising rocking Damascus. But Israel has been on guard for hostilities or refugee influxes on the strategic plateau.
Troops in the southern Golan spotted a man approaching the fence with wire-cutters and he did not heed warnings to back off, nor warning shots fired in the air, Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said.
He was shot in the knee and taken away by three other people, Leibovich said.
"We call this an infiltration attempt ... a breach of the border which we cannot allow," she told reporters, saying there had been several other such incidents on the Golan recently.
Asked if the man shot on Saturday might have been seeking asylum in Israeli-held territory, Leibovich was dismissive.
"Someone who comes with cutters is not, I believe, innocent," she said, adding that it was possible the man was testing Israel's defenses.
Israel's military chief, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, said in January preparations were under way on the Golan for a flood of refugees from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect, should he be toppled.
In May last year, Israeli troops opened fire on protesters from Syria, among them Palestinian refugees, who surged across the fortified boundary fence.
At least 23 people were killed in the incident, which Israel accused Assad of orchestrating in a bid to divert international scrutiny from his crackdown on the Syrian uprising.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Pravin Char)
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