Israel warns Assad over stray Syrian fire on Golan

JERUSALEM Fri Nov 9, 2012 4:59am EST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday to prevent his anti-insurgency sweeps from spilling over into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, saying it was prepared to defend itself.

The Golan, lost by Damascus in the 1967 Middle East war and mostly quiet for decades, was repeatedly hit by what the Israelis described as stray Syrian ordnance this week.

No one was hurt but nerves were jangled in Israel, which has tried to keep out of the conflict ravaging its old enemy next door.

"We see the regime in Syria as responsible for what is happening along the border," Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement.

Referring to the 19-month-old Syrian civil war, he said: "If we see that it is spreading in our direction, we will know how to defend the citizens of the State of Israel and the State of Israel's sovereignty."

Yaalon said Syria had previously "conducted itself appropriately" after receiving such messages. "I hope that in this case, too, there will be someone in Syria who takes matters in hand."

Israel annexed the Golan in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally. In all past peace talks with Israel, Syria has insisted on the strategic plateau's return. The two countries signed a disengagement agreement in 1974, a year after another Arab-Israeli conflict, but are still technically at war.

Asked about a mortar bomb that landed in a Golan settlement on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak linked the incident to Syrian military operation against rebels nearby.

"We have made clear via UNDOF that we intend for there not to be shells falling on us," Barak told Israeli television, referring to a United Nations observer group on the Golan.

Barak did not elaborate on Israel's plans, saying only: "I hope this will not continue, and that the rebels will win in Syria, that Assad will fall and that, at long last, a new stage in the life of Syria will begin."

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
SDaignault wrote:
I don’t think there’s any top down control over the Syrian armed forces, right now. There may be some diligence over decisions to shell in urban areas. But, for the countryside and the borders, it’s, “fire at will,” as targets and opportunities present themselves. I’m sure the Israeli leadership feels the same way. They just need to state their intentions in advance to avoid undue blame when they do act.

Nov 09, 2012 5:55am EST  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
“Israel annexed the Golan in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.”
Israel is only interested in UN resolutions when they go Israel’s way. The Golan Heights are disputed territory, not Israels.

Nov 09, 2012 8:32am EST  --  Report as abuse
unreason wrote:
Tiu: wrt to the Golan Heights being disputed, Lebanon claims part of the land, but no one else recognizes that claim. Otherwise, it is undisputed. Even Israel officially* acknowledges it is Syria’s. Israel offered the Golan Heights back to Syria in 1967 in exchange for peace, returned part in 1973, and then in 1981 extended Israeli law (as opposed to military administration) to the territory, a de facto annexation that was condemned internationally, but the Golan Heights Law does not claim the land. Israel has repeated its offer of the Golan Heights for peace multiple times, most recently in 2007 (admittedly, after Olmert stated “the Golan Heights will remain in our hands forever”) and then again indirectly in 2008, but the offer has never been accepted. (Since 2008, it appears that Israel will not deal with Assad’s regime wrt Golan Heights.)

Nov 09, 2012 2:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.