JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli airforce jets struck Syrian army artillery positions near the Israel-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday, the military said, in retaliation for rockets launched in the area the previous day.
Tensions have escalated in the border region in the 10 days since an Israeli air strike on territory under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed an Iranian general and several Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
On Tuesday, at least two rockets from Syria hit the Golan Heights and Israel responded with artillery fire, the army said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket fire and no casualties were reported.
“We will not tolerate any firing towards Israeli territory or violation of our sovereignty and we will respond forcefully and with determination,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the strikes on Wednesday targeted “Brigade 90” of the Syrian army and other positions held by the military in Quneitra province, which borders Lebanon and Jordan as well as Israel.
In the Israeli air strike on a Hezbollah convoy near Golan on Jan. 18, Iranian Revolutionary Guard general, Mohammed Allahdadi, was killed along with a Hezbollah commander and the son of the group’s late military leader, Imad Moughniyeh.
Both Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, and the Revolutionary Guards vowed to avenge the deaths.
Since that air strike, troops and civilians in northern Israel and the Golan Heights have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed Iron Dome rocket interceptors near the Syrian border.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. The area has been hit by mortar shells and rockets numerous times in four years of civil war in Syria.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the United States called “upon all parties to avoid any action that would jeopardize the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria”.
“We support Israel’s legitimate right to self defence and have been clear about our concerns over the regional instability caused by the crisis in Syria,” Psaki said.
Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Louise Ireland